Uncategorized Nov 05, 2019

Picture this.

It's 1947, and in the small town of Marion, Virginia at the Harwood Manufacturing Corporation' pajama factory, a bit of magic is taking place.

All workers are divided into 4 very similar groups and are asked to change the way they do things.

The changes are minor - for example (and yes, this is a real case), folding pajamas into a box, rather than on top of a flat piece of cardboard.

Yet, Group One becomes extremely aggressive towards management, sees 17% quits in the first 40 days, while productivity drops immediately to about two-thirds of its historic output rate - staying at the new low level for 30 days after the change is introduced. 

Group Two loses the productivity a bit right after the change is made - but then quickly recovers. There're no quits in the first 40 days and only one act of aggression against the supervisors. 

But the real miracle takes place in Groups Three and Four.

"After a slight drop on the first day of change, the efficiency ratings returned to a pre-change level and showed sustained progress thereafter to a level of about 14% higher than the pre-change level. They worked well with their supervisors and no indications of aggression were observed from these groups. There were no quits in either of these groups in the first forty days."


What in the world happened?

What's the secret?

The answer comes down to one word. 


Group 1 had absolutely no part in deciding what will be changed - a production department made a decision and informed everyone (in great detail) at a meeting.

Clearly, they were not amused.

Group 2 had a chance to send a few representatives to participate in the decision on what exactly should be changed.

For Group 3 and 4, every single person (not just a few representatives) were involved in the decision.

That's all.

We know this secret for over 70 years - yet, to this day I see some version of Group 1 implemented in companies all over the world.


"I simply cannot give up control," tells me another executive. "What if I don't agree with what my people decide?"

My answer to this is simple. 

People don't need you to always agree with them.

But they do (always!) want to be heard.


Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva helps companies such as Coca-Cola, Kohler, and IBM turn change and disruption into an opportunity.

If you like the article and want to read the original study, you can get it here - or explore additional interpretations from this 1969 Harvard Business Review classic :)

You can also get much more pragmatic insights and how-tos on resistance to change at our upcoming free | live | online Reinvention Happy Hour. Secure your spot here>>


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