When we're creating and delivering cultural change with organisations, planning how long it will take to 'change a culture' is often tricky. This article explains why. Whether it's an individual struggling with personal time management, a project team missing milestones or an organisation tackling a transformation, our brains are wired to understand those things which feel far away from us more abstractly than things which are close to us. This distance can be created by tangibility, time, space or sociability.

Let's take cultural change. Behaviours are, by definition, more abstract as a a concept. The individuals who make up the culture may be distanced from us and work across the globe. Cultural change is a long term process, it won't happen overnight - things can get complicated, fast. 

How can we overcome it? Simply by tricking our brains. We can mentally reduce the time between the present and the future and make a cultural plan for next week, rather than for the next 18 months. We can think more deliberately about the plan and tasks which need to happen, fleshing our hypothetical scenarios in great detail. And we can build in 'time padding' to make up for the elements which your brain will have overlooked.