In the investment world there goes the saying – “the market is always right”. One of the meanings of this is that you do not have to be right to win a lot of money. Even if the market fundamentals would predict otherwise, when there is a stream in a certain direction you’d better go with it, or you would face a terrible resistance.
Changes in organizations are dealing with the same phenomenon; the market – represented by the majority of the employees – are against change and so they will resist. And you should be glad that they do. If the majority of the people within the organization start running to an end (goal) that is unclear you should worry. However, you dó need momentum at some point in time to get things rolling. Much is to do about balancing energy.
Most people do not favour changes. And they are right. It can be tiring. We all have our habits. We eat what we like and we do not try too many new things. First of all because it costs time to search for new and exotic recipes. The new disrespects, to a certain extent, the old. If you are to invent a new dinner each night, your companions at the table will raise the question whether yesterday’s food was not good enough. To resist a change is natural.
Yet, there are always some pioneers out there that see new opportunities. For instance a new technology that enables you to save time or give you other benefits, new methods that speeds things up or other exotic features that are nice to have. But, how is it that this small group activates the rest? And what should your approach as a change manager be, especially in the start of the project?
As a manager you are in the middle. As always. The pioneers in front of us present some vision that is everything but sound and clear. Therefore it is called a vision. It is nothing until you have reached it and even then it is different than what you had thought it to be. So in order to activate people your job as a manager is to make sure the pioneers are not de-motivated and that the resistance is diminished at the same time. It is your job to link the two parties.
The best way to do that is to tell two stories:
1. ‘If you go too fast the rest will never catch you up and we will all loose’ (present this to the pioneers)
2. ‘If you always follow the market you will never win. Sometimes you have to take just that extra bit of risk’ (this message agrees best with the rest of the group)
At the end of the change ‘project’ the situation is reversed and it is your job to stabilize the situation. But most changes fail because the resistance in the beginning absorbs too much of the budget.
Again as with investments, there are people who feel the beginning of a new trend, one-out-of-three that they are to soon – so a little resistance to go with them each time is alright. However, if they are right – and a good sales story could inform you – then you should better not wait too long to join them. You might end up with nothing.
© 2005 Hans Bool / Astor White
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