Obvious in hindsight, but hard to predict

There has been an abundance of analysis and opinion since the Australian federal election on Saturday 18 May 2019. The Liberal National Party (LNP) returned to power in what many, if not most, considered to be an unwinnable election for them.

By 7.41am on 19 May, one of the first articles on what went wrong was published on ABC News. From ‘ambitious raft of reforms to the electorate, from taxation to healthcare to changes to franking credits, negative gearing, top bracket tax and climate change targets’ – there have been several articles since on how Labor lost an unlosable election, all pointing to obvious errors in the campaign.

For what it’s worth, here’s our summary of the opinions so far:

  • The core electorate felt alienated with policies because the policies were too progressive and divisive on climate change and negative gearing.
  • The policies were so complex that many voters were fearful of the implications.
  • Labor did not listen to all the voices. Older Australians, in particular, appear to have turned on Labor over the policies to remove franking credits for self-funded retirees.
  • Polling was wrong. Just plain wrong.
  • Jobs and economic security were more important than climate change (as seen in Queensland).
  • Bob Brown and the anti-Adani convoy did damage for Labor and the Greens in Queensland.
  • After six years as the Opposition Leader, it seems that Mr Shorten just wasn’t liked (or trusted) by the Australian public.

When you look at this list, it’s hard not to think: “How did Labor get this so wrong?” Yet, the articles seem to state the obvious. What was interesting is that what played out in this election is typical of so many organisations taking on a transformation agenda. However, we haven’t come across an article that talks about the fundamental principles of change in relation to the election. And yet, we think this is crucial to any change – whether it is a small organisation change or a national change, such as a change in government.

Building your change response around the following fundamental principles will ensure that your ideas form the building blocks from which you create your change response and the change stories you use to make sense of the changing world around you. Ultimately, they will assist you with your change efforts, either small or transformational. They are:

  1. Understanding the value systems – the things that drive those who are impacted – before you design your change response. We are reminded of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here. Don’t try and fix the world if an individual’s world isn’t safe and their basic needs aren’t met. There’s a hierarchy of needs in organisations as well. If you haven’t got the basic needs of your people met, you will quickly find out that your higher order changes will likely fail.
  2. You need to communicate, and you need to listen. If people aren’t heard they will find someone who will listen. The will of the people is loud. This won’t mean that if they don’t like or accept your change response that you shouldn’t proceed. But if you don’t listen, and we mean really listen, change will be hard. You will never please everyone, but your people know more that you think.
  3. By knowing your people, you will know whether your change response should be radical or incremental. Either way, the magnitude of any change response will impact on how your people react and how you should manage the change. There’s no right size here and there are many factors to consider.
  4. Change happens in an instant and we often don’t have control over it. The response to the change is a process and we have more control over the response. Don’t rush the response unless absolutely necessary.
  5. Reactions to change are normal. When we try to introduce a change that is not clearly understood or seen as necessary, we often see reactions that result from a perceived threat. And when we are under threat, our ability to solve problems or make decisions or interact with others is diminished. We try and avoid any pain and to do this we react with different or unusual behaviours. Yet when we are in a ‘reward environment’ our abilities are enhanced.
  6. Change leadership is crucial and change leaders must be viewed as having the authority for change. If your leaders aren’t truly leaders or aren’t respected, you will likely fail. This is a must in all change responses.
  7. Thinking you know what the ‘right’ answer is, doesn’t mean it will work. Test and retest your solutions before implementation (remembering point 2 about listening). If you only test with people who are aligned to your thinking, chances are you will ignore some good ideas and opinions.

Change is something that is not new to any of us in life, and yet, many organisations (and political parties!) still continue to forget these basic principles.


We’re working on different ideas, telling a different story, and getting radically different outcomes than what others usually see.