Fatal Errors for Change

The change accelerators help us avoid some pretty common errors in change management.

Neglecting Employees’ Individual Interests

It is not enough to present a compelling case for change. Leaders can explain how the specified changes are in the company’s interests and the collective interests of all employees but for individuals to change their behavior, it must be in their individual interests to do so. There are always some costs to employees in any change program, but the behaviors required for change can still be in their individual interests if there are benefits that, on balance, make it rational to get with the program. It’s up to leadership to understand these cost-benefit analyses and tip the scales as needed to make active support of the collective change an individually winning strategy.

This is one the places having a volunteer army is vital. That army will help ensure the individual and well as the collective interests are engaged.

Under-engaging the Extended Leadership Team

It is crucial to get the extended leadership team seriously engaged in cultural transformation. Much of the coalition of change will be drawn from their numbers. What counts as an extended leadership team is different depending on the organization, but as a rule of thumb go to the top and draw a circle down to 3 levels below.

By drawing from the extended leadership team as the guiding coalition, you give them a personal stake in the outcome. Give the extended leadership team members a voice earlier on in the program and they will feel a greater sense of ownership and will contribute more readily. Their involvement should begin as early as the design stage to leverage their knowledge of the workforce and the situation on the ground. Giving them the opportunity for meaningful input will make them feel included in the program and enthusiastic about it, and will also help keep the program free of design flaws.

Allocating “Set-and-Forget” Targets

The hands-off, set-and-forget model for allocating targets has three major shortcomings:

  • If senior management neglects to inspire ambitions, to monitor progress and make proper course corrections, and to show sufficient engagement, then the initiative leaders will have little reason to go the extra mile. Presented with an annual target, they will likely focus on measures that aim simply to meet it – typically, shortsighted measures such as reducing deviations per batch or CAPA cycle time. After all, such measures are far easier to implement, and far less threatening to the delivery of day-to-day business results, than broad long-term measures such as seeking sustainable savings through increased productivity. Taking the simpler path is the rational choice when you understandably want to minimize disruption. Unfortunately, the short-tern measures don’t change culture fundamentally or sustainably. Sooner or later they are discontinued, and when that happens, the benefits evaporate.
  • The initiative leaders will likely seek solutions specific to their own silos rather than pursue opportunities that might contribute to collective, cross-department success. Those promising opportunities remain undiscovered since individual departments left to their own devices have no particular incentive to look beyond their silos. They might even have a disincentive to do so, because they may rightly worry that they wouldn’t get their fair share of credit for the results or that it would be a futile mission and damaging to their prospects.
  • The hands-off model prevents lead-indicator metrics, timely interventions, and course correction. If senior leaders have little visibility into a departmental initiative, they cannot easily realize that things are going off the hands-off model militates against lead-indicator metrics, timely interventions, and course correction. If senior leaders have little visibility into a departmental initiative, they cannot easily realize that things are going off track through the pursuit of unsustainable, short-term measures – until it is too late to do anything about it.
Visualized by Rose Fastus

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