Management by Design, Reengineering, Management by Wandering Around, TQM, Excellence, Chaos Theory, Balanced Scorecard, Lean and Mean, Management by Objectives, Empowerment, High-Performance Teams, T-Groups, Quality Circles, and on and on.
One change follows another. One training program follows another. And from each training program, we bounce back to the old ways — or something pretty close. We spend big money to bring in a consultant or training company, we spend a day or two or more learning whatever they're teaching, and then weeks, or months, or a year later, all is forgiven and it's back to business as usual.
Why does this happen? Here are four causes of this pattern and four strategies for achieving lasting results.
- This too shall pass
- When leaders believe in their own credibility, and expect the organization to follow unquestioningly, almost any change is doomed. The most aware among the staff know the futility of embracing enthusiastically anything that will be forgotten within a year.
- We've been down this path so many times that "management fad" is now a legitimate buzz phrase. Acknowledge the failures of the past and deal with skepticism directly.
- Education isn't Change
- When we believe change comes from learning a few facts or skills or theories, change efforts tend to consist of training. But if education were change, with all the diet books in print, by now we would all be the perfect weight.
- Lasting change requires much more than training. One essential item that's usually missing from change efforts is practice. Practice isn't part of training — it's part of doing.
- Resistance comes — in part — from the organization
- We often assume that people choose to stay in Old Status Quo — that if they would just "buy in," all would be well. But culture, policies, procedures, the performance evaluation program, and the actions of others can all cause old behaviors to persist.
- Plan to transform all organizational components that interact with the change. Recognize that you might have to educate some people even though their actual jobs might not be changing.
- To practice, people need slack
- When leaders expect
the organization to
almost any change
- We often expect the newly trained to use what they've learned, at or above the old level of performance, immediately. Worse, we relax the workflow neither for the training nor the practice.
- As we learn new ways, we need to practice them. At first, we might even be less effective than when we do things the old way. Relax the flow of work temporarily to allow people to try the new methods in a less pressured environment.
If you adopt any of these strategies, and if that constitutes change, you'll probably run into a little bounceback. Keep at it. Let yourself practice. Expect others to expect your old ways. And give yourself slack. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Organizational Change:
- Look Before You Leap
- When we execute complex organizational change, we sometimes create disasters. It's ironic that even
in companies that test their products thoroughly, we rarely test organizational changes before we "roll
them out." We need systematic methods for discovering problems before we execute change efforts.
One approach that works well is the simulation.
- When Change Is Hard: II
- When organizational change is difficult, we sometimes blame poor leadership or "resistance."
But even when we believe we have good leadership and the most cooperative populations, we can still
encounter trouble. Why is change so hard so often?
- Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- When we investigate what went wrong, we sometimes encounter obstacles. Interviewing witnesses and participants
doesn't always uncover the reasons why. What are these obstacles?
- Deciding to Change: Trusting
- When organizations change by choice, people who are included in the decision process understand the
issues. Whether they agree with the decision or not, they participate in the decision in some way. But
not everyone is included in the process. What about those who are excluded?
- The Passion-Professionalism Paradox
- Changing the direction of a group or a company requires passion and professionalism, two attributes
often in tension. Here's one possible way to resolve that tension.
See also Organizational Change for more related articles.
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- And on December 25: Disjoint Awareness
- In collaborations, awareness of how our own work might interfere with the work of others is essential. Unless our awareness of others' work — and their awareness of ours — matches reality, the collaboration's objective is at risk. Available here and by RSS on December 25.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.