Monday, July 21, 2008

Explaining why the change is important.

It’s difficult to get people to embrace change by threatening them with bad news about the dreadful things that may happen if they don’t change. Bad news seldom energizes people and invariably triggers denial and avoidance. People are more likely to be stirred into action by the possibility of being in a much, much better place than where they’re at today. A positive message presents time, change, and the future as a friend, not as an enemy. Usually, however, people need some of both to get them started. You have to push them with the prospect of pain as well as pulling them with the benefits that can come from creating a better future.

People often try to avoid change by claiming, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Instead of accepting this, challenge them with the mantra, “If it’s not broken, prove it.”

And, if you find it’s really broken, don’t fix it or replace it. Create something new and more appropriate instead.

Continuously work to mobilize energy for the change. The dilemma in getting employees excited about changing is that, over time, most businesses don’t noticeably change for the worse; they simply fail to change for the better. Keep communicating the need for change, clarifying the reasons why it’s necessary at this time. Reinforce the benefits to individuals, the positive outcomes expected for the firm, and how these two are connected. Neutralizing resistance and building support requires a never-ending commitment to insistence and persistence. If you’re clear-minded about what you want to achieve, you can open people’s mind by narrowing their thinking.

Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. Communication is a lot like recognition - you can’t do too much of it. Remember that communication is a two-way process. Create experiences where people can discover for themselves much of what you already know. When people tell you what you would have told them, then you can be sure they’ve got the message.

Work with, not against, the power in the firm. Revolutionaries get shot, apostles get crucified - neither make attractive role models. Start by finding some like-minded friends in high places. If you start a change process from the center of power, a lot of the problems related to time go away. Most people accept change if it’s sanctioned, it’s simple, and it's swift.


Chinesecowboy said...

Like your reminder that it's ok to overcommunicate

Question about your line "When people tell you what you would have told them, then you can be sure they’ve got the message"

My concern there is that my employees would be robots, parroting back a mantra instead of thinking for themselves?

john cotter said...

Here's what I'd do chinesecowboy (love that name).....
Ask them how the economy is impacting their own life - cost of gas, shrinking home value, rising food costs, etc. Ask them what they're doing about it.
Then ask if they see similarities in the company's situation. Ask what they would do about it if they owned the company.
Then ask - what does that suggest we should do? What can you do to help?