Cliff and Taz

Puppies and Change Management

Change management is complex. Puppies are cute. Potty training a puppy is not cute and hopefully doesn’t kill your floors or your mental health. I got a puppy recently, and his name is Cliff. Potty training Cliff is a case study in change management.

Unknown Limitations

Something I didn’t consider when getting a puppy is their physical limitations. A puppy doesn’t have control of its blatter. Internet, I need HELP! I found my help at WebMD. The section below was helpful.

House training your puppy is about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. The goal is to instill good habits and build a loving bond with your pet.

It typically takes 4–6 months for a puppy to be fully house trained, but some puppies may take up to a year.

I learned two things 1) I better be more patient with the process and 2) WebMD has a wealth of knowledge on pets.

The ability to change is critical to change management. Unfortunately, we often underestimate the time required and the capacity of our end-users to change. Just because we know what we are doing doesn’t mean that our end-users will. Therefore, we need to make the change as easy as possible for them.


I learned very quickly that rituals are essential when puppy training. The first ritual we started was taking Cliff outside whenever he woke up from a nap. What Cliff did was immediately get water once he went outside instead of going potty. Cliff’s ritual didn’t cause too much trouble until he started doing this at midnight and then needed to “go” at 2 am.

Change management requires rituals, and frequently the end-users will have other ideas of what you want them to do. They may head to the “water bowl” confidently, not knowing what you are asking. Meanwhile, you are scratching your head, wondering why they can’t follow instructions. What is required is consistent gentle reminders of the required actions and the end goal. I can proudly say Cliff is getting better, and I have cleared up my communication by putting him on the grass first before he gets his water. It is a win-win. The next step is to measure success.

Reports and Encouragement

Reporting is almost always about finding exceptions. No one cares if everything is normal. Reporting the exceptions with Cliff has been easy. How? Wet spots or “gifts” on the carpet. These are the exceptions. Sure they are annoying, but they show progress (or the lack thereof). Often time we get frustrated when stuff doesn’t go our way. These are opportunities to teach and clean up the messes as we head toward our end goal. Take note of the exceptions and fall back to the rituals or processes you have in place. Then, of course, there is also the reporting on the expected outcome. In this case, I make my kids pick up the poo.

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
- H. James Harrington

Kennels and Whimpering

They say kennel training is helpful for puppies. Cliff didn’t know this at first. So he whimpered and whined. It was hard not to react. If I had gotten him out of the kennel when he whined, he would have been the one training me. So I did what any good puppy parent would do, I knew what was best, and I stuck to my guns. It took a couple of days, but he is getting used to the restricted space of the kennel.

Change management requires sticking to your guns when the naysayers are whining. If you have done your job the whining should diminish over time. However, if weeks/months have gone by and people are still complaining, rethink your process. You can continuously iterate.

Pee Pads and Iteration

Pee pads are all the rage but they are this weird phase that teaches a dog to pee inside. This is an iteration that can be a step change to the long term change. When changing an organization look for and leverage these step changes but don’t get stuck halfway.

Five Take Aways

  1. Be patient with change. It is almost always harder than you think.
  2. Build rituals and point them toward the ultimate change.
  3. Report the exceptions and the expectations.
  4. Encourage any change in your desired direction.
  5. Iterate towards your desired goal, especially if it makes the change easier on everyone.



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