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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Looking to Implement Change? Watch Out For Denial and Denigration!

How do you recognise contentment and complacency in the business?  Please understand that we should always be trying to design a business that has a culture to which people can relate and feel comfortable.

However it can, if we are not careful, become a culture of complacency and that can be truly dangerous.

If we start to hear people saying things like “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” or “I’ve never had any complaints” we really need to look more closely at what is happening.

It can be evidence of organisational reluctance to change and if that is coming from the top down then is it any wonder that the people will react against change.

Comfort can easily transmute into complacency if we are not careful.   I remember a case when a business for which I was consulting became a victim of its own success with a major customer.  In fact they became so successful that the customer generated almost 90% of the company’s turnover.

I mentioned this vulnerability to the CEO who brushed it off saying “I have the buyer in my pocket”, a very unpleasant and eventually inaccurate remark.

Change happened at the customer’s business when there was a change of buyer who brought in his own preferred suppliers. In turn this meant that my client lost the business and eventually the business itself.

It has been said very wisely that the only real constant in business is change and if we analyse the situation we will find that we are regularly bringing change into the business almost without it being noticed.

However this is not always a smooth path.  Depending on the level of change being implemented and the affect that it will have on people there can be massive and sometimes unforeseen reaction.

Negative change in the way of redundancies or moving venues are obvious causes of adverse reaction but it is odd that when we try to bring in change that will or should impact positively then the reaction can be equally negative.

The symptoms are usually very clear.  We start to hear “We tried that before and it didn’t work” or “Our industry is different” or even, as above “We won’t lose the business with that customer, they rely on us”.

The key to success in implementing change is culture and communication.  It takes time to develop a culture where change is constant and doesn’t cause problems or conflict.

People need to be helped to become understanding of the need to change especially in times of uncertainty and that requires great communication skills on the part of the leadership.

While the written word in emails or intranet can cover the points there is nothing to beat face-to-face contact and to give people the opportunity to question and discuss.

Again, if it is at all feasible, one-to-one communication is even better than groups although for obvious reason this might cause problems in a large organisation.

If the business has a reputation for opaqueness in its communication or merely implementing decisions without adequate explanation or background then there will be resistance.

However if the culture in the business is one of openness and transparency the battle is almost won.  It is up to the leadership to decide on which path to follow.

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