Managing in Hyperchange
Executive Best Practices
Richard C.B. Earle, Ph.D., Principal, Vital Corporation
Managing Director, Canadian Institute of Stress & The Hans Selye Foundation
Make It So!
Even on military bases, or in hospital surgical wards, where command-and-control thrives, "Make it so!" edicts (or memos) may have little impact -- other than entrenching resistance -- in making management's vision of the changed workplace a working reality.
Staff may actively support changes, and some may actively resist or more subtlely sabotage the change process. Others slowly deflate it, referring to the corporate vision as the "corporate halucination", while most just keep their heads down waiting for the fad of the month to pass.
Amongst line and H.R. executives charged with "making change happen", I've seen results ranging from crowning success to prematurely greying frustration. Learning from the success stories, here are a few executive best practices I recommend for making change a lasting success.
1. Workplace change must be marketed; it can rarely be "implemented". To be sure, orders and direction must be given. To the extent, however, that employees' hearts and minds are required, they must "buy" the changes, because "fear of firing" – an unfortunate managerial tool -- gains only compliance, not initiative or commitment.
Stripping away the rocket science, effective marketing depends on thoughtful strategy concerning: the product (the desired changes in how people work), the people, the price to be paid, and product positioning and promotion, as follows.
2. The Product -- Practice W5 + H: Often the biggest obstacle to successful change is right in the senior management team .......... when everyone is not working off the same page. Ask each team member to nutshell a major change initiative beyond the buzzwords, and you may find more difference than overlap. Is it any wonder that junior employees bail out, complaining that, "No one has the big picture" or that "Management doesn't walk the talk"? In short, ensure shared storyline answers under the W5 + H headings [What, Why, Who, When, Where and How] about your change initiative.
3. The People -- Co-create success by relying on employee motivation: Most employees enjoy contributing to change. What they resent is "being changed". Take very seriously that most people are more married to their work (not to job or company) than to their spouse. This gut-level fact is both your greatest obstacle and your most powerful resource in marketing change. Upset the marriage unilaterally and you've got trouble. Offer the opportunity to particiapte in renewing a better marriage to deal with new business realities, and you've begun an invaluable change partnership.
For example, don't launch a "More & Better" initiative, slapping your people in the face, by saying, "This is totally new. It's going to make a world of difference. And we've hired consultants to tell us how to do it". Rather, very visibly build and then promote More & Better based on what we've learned from in-house success stories that staff take pride in.
4. The Price -- Recognize success: Perhaps not wishing to let employees relax or feel satisfied "because bigger demands are coming", many managers nowadays resist occasionally saying "Thank you" or celebrating successes achieved by a work team. This flies in the face of my observation that at least 90% of employees want to contribute more than they are paid for, so long as the stress of doing so results in roughly commensurate levels of work satisfaction.
Perhaps the Genghis Khan manager is simply guilty of getting stuck at step one of: In the early stages of change, emphasize the costs and the risks of not changing and then, gradually, gear up to a shared focus on the positives and the progress.
Become known for providing "balanced feedback" .......... constructive criticism plus positive recognition, reinforcing your view that worklife can and should be a win-win experience.
5. Positioning and Promotion -- Actively respect employee know-how and initiative: The top complaint of perhaps 50% of today's employees is "I get absolutely no respect from management". And this is not primarily about work demands unreasonably interfering with personal life. From the corporate viewpoint, it's an even more serious complaint to this effect: "We in my team know how to do things better, to hit the productivity and customer service targets more often and at lower cost. We've tried to tell them; but no one listens". Unfortunately, an early casualty in "lean and mean" or "firefighting" cultures is the feedback loop from those who actually do the work to those who manage them. Many employees today no longer dare and/or care enough to speak up. The risks outweigh their expected satisfaction.
In addition to simply being "right", respect for employees and their know-how is a high yield management tool. Please note: Suggestion boxes and business/quality improvement awards are largely ineffective. Rather, ask groups about the "lose-lose" parts of their changed work [those parts of their work which are both causing costly problems as well as negatively impacting levels of stress or satisfaction], leading to their proposals for "win-win" solutions. Uniformly your year-over-year success will easily rise 10% or more … becoming a “double digit growth” company or team.
- Acknowledge your limitations and your strengths: You are likely not a marketing specialist. And yet you undoubtedly have several underused marketing talents. Stand back, Think about them for 10 minutes. Put them to work. You'll be pleased you did.
Contact: Richard Earle, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org (416) 237-1828 direct line