Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Change Management Bias Toward Management

Kotter Enhancement
Stage 3

Kotter's phase 3 is called ...

Develop a Vision 

Phase 3 Enhancement ...

Develop a Shared Vision 

A Tale of Two Perspectives
Regular readers of this blog are probably sick of me describing the big difference between the (a) change agent perspective, and the (b) change recipient perspective.  However, it is the gulf between these two that prevents real change management success.  Change agents include:
  • Upper management
  • The leader(s) tagged as responsible for the change
  • Internal and external consultants
More often than not, we can clearly see the benefit of a change initiative to change agents.  If the numbers tied to a change improve, upper management gets credit.  The leader responsible for the change sometimes moves up the ladder of the change had a positive financial impact.  Consultants, finally, keep their jobs; job security is always on the mind of a consultant, whether internal or external.

The benefit to change recipients, however, does not always exist.  Changes often results in an increased workload for change recipients.  More work usually means more stress.  Too many times leaders think of their own personal benefits and costs when creating a change.  The costs and benefits to employees and frontline managers are an after-thought.

Disproportionately Shared Vision
Which would you rather have ... 1 or 2?
1.  Lots of benefit with little cost.
2.  High costs with little benefit.

Employees detect 3 things about who gains from a change:
1.  Management-only gain
2.  Mutual gain
3.  Employee-only gain

If employee resistance is the norm, then your change initiatives are weighted too much in favor of change agents.  An assertive employee voice is often missing from the discussions where organizational change is created.

I look out for me and mine first,
you and yours second.

Top-down Vision
A top-down vision is typical.  It is normal for a human to use self-interest to drive behavior.  I look out for me and mine first, then you and yours second.
People instinctively think:  what's in it for me?  Employees and middle managers often see the short-term financial benefits from change that leaders are after.  However, too many change initiatives are lite on benefits to employees and heavy on benefits to leaders.  Employees see through attempts to hype a top-down vision as being the greatest thing ever for employees.

Shared Vision
A shared vision is more difficult to craft, but it is also causes less resistance.  For example, a hospital system in MI recently looked at the financial forecasts and announced that it needed to layoff several hundred workers (not leaders).  No matter what change initiative launches next in that system ... people will know that they are having to do more with less.  This is a typical top-down vision ... the numbers will now balance keeping the board off the leadership team's back.

In 2009, a Boston hospital chose a different route.  Their leadership team also calculated that they needed to layoff 600 employees.  Rather than push this entire cost onto employees, the leadership team decided to explore alternatives and solicited employee input to do so.  Even department heads of the departments for the doctors donated time to further reduce the number of layoffs from 150 to almost none.

A shared vision isn't a difficult sell.  Mutual gains will garner much less resistance than changes where only management is perceived as recipient of the benefits.

Summary of Kotter Enhancements: Steps 1-3
1.  Create a shared sense of urgency
2.  Create multiple advisory teams
3.  Create a shared vision

If I had to summarize the enhancements to steps 1, 2, and 3, I would use the terms empowerment.  Kotter waits until step 5 to mention the term.  Empowerment needs to start at step 1 and continue strong through steps 2 and 3.


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