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The House of Change – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

28th Mar, 2012

The House of Change The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

If you’re a regular reader of our monthly tips you’ll know that we love to draw learning from every-day events and experiences – holidays, hobbies, books, films etc. This month’s tip is no exception with the inspiration on change management drawn from the hugely successful film – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. (See the trailer here.)

In several of our workshops we use the ‘House of Change’ model, reproduced below, to explain the process that organisations and individuals go through when faced with change.

The ‘house of change’ model identifies four rooms in the house which, in order to accept change, we need to move through: contentment, denial, confusion and renewal.. Each room attracts its own unique blend of behaviours and actions.  As organisations and individuals we move through the house, from room to room, in an anti-clockwise direction. However we move at different speeds so at any point in time people will be in different rooms. Equally we may spend longer in some rooms than others.  Some rooms may be more comfortable for us and we may struggle to leave them. It is not guaranteed that everyone will complete the process and some may have to leave the house.

And so to the film ….

Fleeing the UK, an eclectic bunch of retirees head off to spend their twilight years in the Indian sun. They include the recently bereaved Evelyn; lonely and frisky Norman; laid-back Douglas and his up-tight wife Jean; former high court judge, Graham and racist Muriel. On arrival, they discover that their supposedly luxurious Jaipur hotel falls somewhat short of the romantic idyll promised in the brochure!  However, they are gradually won over by the ever-optimistic young manager, Sonny, and tentatively embark on a new adventure, finding that life can begin again when you let go of the past.

Looking at the House of Change Model we can see that, at the start of the film all of the retirees have moved out of the Contentment Room, usually due to circumstances beyond their control.  Evelyn discovers that her late husband accumulated substantial debts and she can no longer afford to remain in her home.  Muriel desperately needs a hip replacement but the waiting list in the UK is too long.  Graham has had enough of life as a high court judge and decides to return to India, where he’d lived many years ago.  Donald has invested in his daughter’s start-up business but it’s failed to get off the ground and consequently he and Jean are facing a very different retirement to the one they had envisaged.

Reactions to Change.   The retirees’ reactions to this imposed change differ markedly as they arrive in India.

Jean is stuck in Denial. She hates her new home, the food, the heat, the dirt, is appalled at how her life has turned out and is determined to find a way back to England.

Muriel likewise is in denial as she struggles to adapt.  Although her operation is an immediate success she channels all her energy into finding fault with her surroundings, in particular the food – “If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it!”

By contrast Norman checks into his new home, unpacks his few possessions and sets out to explore and find romance.  He’s already well and truly moved into the Confusion Room.

Graham and Evelyn can be seen to be tentatively entering the Confusion Room.  As they arrive in Delhi we sense their apprehension, tinged with excitement. Graham in particular has a clear vision of what he wants out of the journey to India.

Evelyn:Do you think well be alright?

Graham:Its going to be extraordinary

The Reality of Change. As time moves on, as with any change programme, we see the characters facing up to the reality that change is happening and they start to move through the rooms of the House of Change at different speeds.  For most this is a time of confusion.  Evelyn gets a job, Muriel takes her first steps outside, Norman and Graham find what they came for. Donald embraces the culture but Jean still remains in denial.

The New Norm. As the film concludes Muriel discovers that her new surroundings aren’t that bad after all.  In fact she is able to flourish in them and find a renewed sense of purpose and channel for her considerable energy and skills.  Likewise, Evelyn, Norman and Donald have definitely entered the Renewal Room – there’s a real sense of them moving forward, looking to the future with curiosity and optimism and their language is positive.  And Jean?  Well, as we stated above, in any change process, survival is not guaranteed.  Jean remains in the Denial Room throughout the film until a change in personal circumstances provides her with an opportunity to return to the UK.  She never enters the right hand side of the house and therefore doesn’t see any of the beauty and possibility in her new  surroundings.

What is your typical reaction to change?

What speed do you move through the house of change?

Which rooms do you find most comfortable/most challenging?

If you are a leader – how can you best guide people through the house of change?

Food for thought? Interested in our workshops on making change happen

See our other blog postings on change.