Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Change Management Mirage

So what is REALLY happening?

Who wants to get fired?
No matter how bad the economy, the answer to this question is "very few people."  In today's economy, almost 50% of employees have mentally checked out of their current organization (Source:  TLNT, 2011).  Half of those are actively looking for another job.  The scarier thought is that the other half are just hanging around.

Fear stimulates action or paralysis

I'm looking for organizations to study to see the distribution of people represented by the 4 road signs that led this post.  I'm guessing most of the 50% of people mentally checked out reside in the "not moving" category.  It is not as if they are striking at the gates of the organization, but they are doing their norm and avoiding the new change work.

How many people do you see in
organizations who do almost nothing?

Not too many openly oppose change. Norma Ray is a symbol for open defiance in the workplace.  You younger people should check out the movie.  Based on Bob Marshak's thinking, I would guess some people unintentionally fall into this category.  
Marshak told me a few months back that many people are unconsciously resisting -- interesting point.  He discusses this concept here and wrote a book called Covert Processes at Work.

Danielle Warren from Rutgers posits that many employees fail to comply not out of defiance like Norma Ray, but because of ignorance ... saying "I didn't know" as the reason they didn't do what management wanted.  For my research, I'm controlling for intention.  I'm not interested in knowing whether or not someone is intentionally or unintentionally obstructing.  

People can still be scared and obstruct
whether they intend to or not

Full Steam Ahead
You may not see it often, but we've all had rare glimpses of successful organizational change in action.  Empowered employees, guided by informed leaders, move in the right direction at a very fast pace.  "Get out of my way" is every change leaders dream, provided the employees who say it are have a win-win mindset.

Passive Commitment?

You've heard of passive resistance.  

Most of us would agree that these people don't want to change, but are too fearful to openly oppose.

However, obedience is the lowest form of commitment.  Just because people are doing what they are told does not necessarily mean that a change will be successful.

Just Like Training
Robert Brinkerhoff, researcher and author of Courageous Training, found that after a training event:

15% never tried to apply
70% gave up after 1 or 2 attempts
15% successfully applied the new skill

In the change context, individuals may try 80 mph, but if things do not go smoothly, they downshift into 5 mph.  Obedience is the Change Management Mirage ...

Obedience is safer, but lower performing


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