I gave up eating chocolate in 2001. When I refuse a piece of chocolate and tell people that, some of them ask me if I miss it and I say ‘no’ and they seem surprised. I gave up for health reasons but I didn’t find it that hard really because I was brought up in the UK and didn’t like the flavour of New Zealand chocolate. At first I found that strange, after all Cadbury’s chocolate was Cadbury’s chocolate wasn’t it? But i found out it wasn’t made the same way down-under where it is warmer and the chocolate melts easier.
This weekend I read an article in the New Zealand Herald about Cadbury’s creme eggs. I used to love creme eggs1 at Easter, so you could say that this was the one thing I missed about chocolate. It seems that Cadbury’s can no longer make creme eggs here in New Zealand and are bringing them in from the UK.
And people are complaining. They don’t like them.
At first I thought ‘What? the UK eggs are miles better!’ and then it struck me that it was really coming down to what people were used to.
Over the years thousands of Kiwis and Aussies had learned a definition of what a creme egg was and got used to it. It was ‘how a creme egg should be’ according to everyone down-under. It was the culturally accepted definition of creme egg. And then Cadbury’s tried to change the definition and hit the culture buffer.
The culture buffer comes up in all organisations that are trying to bring about change. The culture buffer is the difference between the way you want the organisation to be and the way it currently is. Its the difference between what you have got your people used to doing and what you would like them to do. Its the old attitudes against the new.
Its called the culture buffer because you have to put effort in to get past it and break through. Its a buffer because it is highly resistant, not because the old is bad and the new is good or that the old is good and the new is bad, but because it’s what we have got used to. Good or bad doesn’t come in to it.
So when you are planning change, be ready for the culture buffer. Remember that it was your organisation that taught people to accept the current culture and that took years of previous management effort. Just like it will take some time to convert Australasian creme egg lovers to an UK style egg it will take time to convert your people. And of course some will never convert, whatever you do.
Forrest Gump said that ‘life was like a box of chocolates’ and maybe he was on the right track for culture change……except its just like a different creme egg.
1 For anyone who does not know what a creme egg is here is an NZ advert from 1992