Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


Changing the Marshmallow

Oct 07, 2019

Management and Leadership in Nonprofits | Wipfli

I figure there is no better time to write a blog than while under the influence of cold medicine. I also know that as soon as I finish, I get to take a nap. (Sometimes it's good to give yourself a reward.)

I recently attended an event where we were discussing a particularly hard subject. It involved changing someone's behavior, but mostly it involved change. Someone likened the change effort to "poking the marshmallow.” I immediately fell in love with that phrase.

In most cases, trying to effect change is like poking a marshmallow. That is, you change the shape immediately but temporarily. The shape quickly returns to what it was as if the change never happened.

This got me thinking. … How much effort do we spend as leaders poking the marshmallows in our organizations?

Our organizations have folks who need to change to make the progress we desire. If we have a sound change process, we can move most folks toward the behaviors and results we need. This is more than just asking or even poking; it's about creating the awareness, desire, knowledge, actions and results (ADKAR).

Most people buy in and adapt, however, some folks are marshmallows and they simply return to the form they started with. We might get a little breakthrough in the beginning, but they’re really just killing time, hoping the change will go away.

Even worse, is the negative influence marshmallows have on those trying to adapt.

Here's my challenge:  Recognize your marshmallows and deal with them. Sometimes it means removing them from your organization. Sometimes it means placing them in a different role. What you cannot do is accept that they return to form after the poke.

Leading change is hard.

Don't get stopped by a few marshmallows.

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Wipfli Editorial Team

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