While our politicians argue and fight about what needs to be done about healthcare and the national budget, I am reminded of how easy it is to pick and choose information and facts to build a case and make a point, to attempt to influence people’s thinking, to create enemies to be conquered rather than colleagues to be valued and listened to.
It’s not everyday I get to discuss corporate restructuring with an expert but recently I had the rare opportunity to interview a friend and colleague with lots of experience in this area. Jennifer Tice is a Learning and Development executive with experience in major corporations including one of our clients, Fidelity Investments. She has participated in numerous restructuring efforts and I got to ask a few questions I’ve always wanted to ask of a top executive!
- Why do companies embark in restructuring and reorganization efforts?
- What are some common factors that determine the success or failure of a restructuring process?
- What are some common challenges mid-level managers face during reorganizations?
- How do you help them balance their personal agenda and the company agenda?
- What would you advise a top-level executive who is considering restructuring the organization? What should they definitely do? What should they definitely not do?
- How should change management be used during a reorganization effort?
In a recent HRB article, author Ron Ashkenas rightly points out that most of change management efforts fail because it is a task often relegated to HR or an outside consultant. He and most of those who replied to his article make the common sense assertion that change management efforts should be the purview of the leader/manager. If we surveyed a hundred managers, the majority would probably agree that it is their job to manage change.
Then why do managers often look to HR or consultants to take on the role of change managers? Based on observations in client organizations, I offer some ideas:
Resistance or rejection? What’s the difference? And why does it matter?
As a sequel to our previous post about resistance as a counterproductive label, here we explore a new framework for ‘resistance’ to change. RESISTANCE assumes negative intent on the part of the ‘resistor’ which leads change leaders to ‘conquering‘ or ‘overcoming‘ others as the strategy for success. Alternatively, the REJECTION view assumes that people are missing evidence to accept a proposed solution. Consequently, the strategy for success is ‘influencing‘ others though evidence.
Nobody likes to be thought of as ‘resistor’ or a ‘roadblock’ or a ‘barrier.’ None of those labels are positive or flattering! Besides, ‘resistance’ connotes a battle between right and wrong, good vs. bad. Not a good picture!
And more often than not, ‘resistance’ is only a symptom of fear, confusion, mistrust, lack of information, misunderstandings, unanswered questions, no visible need for change, an unclear end goal, etc. most of which are fully under the control of the person leading the change. From this perspective, labeling others as ‘resistors’ is to blame them for our inability to lead and to influence effectively.
Effective leaders provide evidence for people to accept the change. What is that evidence? Below is a short list of some critical pieces of evidence that will go a long way to develop ‘acceptance’ rather than rejection.
- Change is constant
- The pace of change will increase
- Most change initiatives in organizations fail
For decades now, studies have shown that as many as 85% of all change initiatives fail. This is true in new technology implementation, organizational restructuring, mergers, business transformations, outsourcing, process improvement programs, or other types of change. Why?
Probably the only time you hear people using the word LOVE is to describe something they really like, such as “oh I love your shoes, they are so cute!” or “I love my new car” or “I love to ride my bike in the mornings.” We seldom use the word LOVE to describe how we feel about someone, unless it is a workplace romance – but that is not what this post is about.
A chief executive flies in to have a skip-level meeting with the troops. Naturally he wants them to feel free to open up to him and share things that would help him be a better leader. The time is limited, and of course in addition to ‘hearing them out’ he also has a handful of slides he wants to share with them – his vision, the strategy, the top priorities, and how employees can contribute. All good information, all well-intended. So, looking at the clock, he gets down to business! After he leaves, comes the meeting-after-the-meeting with your colleagues and you realize that nobody felt totally comfortable speaking their minds with the boss.
We enjoy traveling as a family and have driven thousands of miles from Michigan through much of the United States and as far as Acapulco, Mexico! While traveling long distances isn’t easy or always pleasant, in the end every journey is an adventure we all enjoy and remember with fondness. Our children have become accustomed to long road trips and look forward to each new adventure. Everyone helps with the planning and preparation. We all accept the fact that we will be driving for a long time in a car with some inconvenience but that the expected outcome offsets the hassles common to long road trips (which are many!).
But for a long journey to be successful and enjoyable, we have to have 1) a good reason to travel, 2) a destination everyone wants to go to, and 3) a good plan to get there.
In an interesting article by the Washington Post (What you can learn from Southwest Airlines’ culture) Micah Solomon addresses lessons about organizational culture and why culture matters. The article illustrates these lessons using Southwest Airlines as an example. To summarize, culture matters because…
- Culture creates a consistently positive customer experience
- The impact of culture is amplified by social media
- A strong culture helps organizations manage constant change