A number of years ago, at the Contingent Workforce Strategies Summit in Amsterdam, I highlighted the importance of consulting with stakeholders during any change process, and in particular when thinking about implementing an MSP and/or VMS. The challenge was to put across my idea within 90 seconds, so it was key to deliver a takeaway that the audience would remember. To this end, I suggested that when the delegates thought about CWS (in truth meaning Contingent Workforce Strategies), that they also think of it in terms of “Consulting with Stakeholders.”

Recently, a colleague of mine introduced me to an experiment performed by Solomon Asch in the 1950s, which took the idea of consulting with stakeholders a little further — highlighting the importance of one-on-one discussions. The reason being that often, people are too heavily influenced by those around them and do not share their own opinions.

Asch’s experiment involved two separate cards. One card had a single vertical line. The second had three vertical lines of different lengths, labeled A, B and C. One of the three vertical lines on the second card was the same length as the single line on the first card.

Asch then placed eight people around a table. Participants 1 through 7 were privy to the experiment, while No. 8 had no idea what was going on.

The experiment was performed 18 times, each time with a different eighth person.

Three times, the first seven participants announced the correct letter unanimously, and participant No. 8 also announced the same letter.

Of the other 15 passes of the cards, the first seven all deliberately chose the wrong letter. Of those 15 times, No. 8 chose the wrong letter 11 times.

This is a fascinating demonstration of what we call “herd” behavior, where among a group of people, individuals tend to conform to the group rather than speak their own mind.

The takeaway is simple: When consulting with stakeholders, try to speak to them independently to better understand their real challenges and concerns. Recognizing these, and creating solutions that address more of your stakeholder needs, will significantly improve your change management success statistics.