Too good to change? (At least this year!)
Over the last couple of years, we have seen several organisations that are too good to change. But, how can organisations possibly be too good to change?
The answer is simple: they can deliver better profits this year doing almost exactly what they have always done. Maybe because they have a difficult-to-copy product or service or they have been in the market longer than their nearest competitor.
A manager may earnestly ask about doing something different. A manager may even say the words “we need to do something different” and invest in consulting or a workshop or two. Other managers may nod their heads and take part in workshops. “Yes we need to change”, they say. Inexperienced managers or consultants would believe they want to change. However, it’s not what people say in the workshops that matters, it’s what they do afterwards.
Let’s say that you want to introduce managing your customers more strategically with Strategic Account Management. The first thing to understand is that you will not see increases in sales until at least 18 months after you start.
So, after the workshop, imagine you are back at the office. Your first job is to complete your weekly report: how many calls did you make, what prospects do you have and what orders were booked. Next, its forecast time and so you start completing your monthly forecasts by product. Next you move on to creating a presentation for each brand or product manager. Next, a customer calls about a supply problem. Followed quickly by a meeting about compliance with the latest rules. Every day you continue like this and soon its four weeks since the workshop and nothing has changed. But you did meet your budget.
Now, nobody is hassling you about the new initiative. All anybody asks about is meeting this year’s targets. So, you say to yourself, I will get round to the new strategic stuff next week. This is a strong signal that your organisation is just too good to change.
So, if your organisation is too good to change, how can you make a strategic change? A change that will make a difference next financial year?
- Get REAL executive sponsorship
- Add new meetings and new reports; Delete meetings and reports
- Add social rewards and social punishments
Get REAL executive sponsorship
In large organisations, most managers know it’s important to get executive sponsorship – an executive happy to have put their name to change. But, is this enough? In successful organisations, definitely not.
Sending out a memo is a good start. Even better is the executive opening the workshop with a 15 minute explanation of why this change is so important. Even better than that, the executive stays for the whole workshop.
“But, this executive is too busy to stay.” you say. So, the executive says the change is important, but not important enough to spend their time on. Unfortunately, the rest of the organisation see this too. This program is important enough for the executive to write an email, but not important enough for them to spend time on. So it’s not a high priority for the organisation and not a priority for me.
In practice, at least get the executive to open the session. Then, get the executive to attend the review session for completed actions 30 days after the workshop. This is REAL executive sponsorship and will reinforce the actions and changes.
Add new meetings and new reports; Delete meetings and reports
Apart from what your executives spend time on, other powerful reinforcers of behaviours are meetings and reports. If you want to change the organisation from a product-focused organisation to a customer-focused organisation and the regular meetings are about products, then the change will not happen. Similarly, if your monthly reports are organised by product, your staff will not become more customer focused
Without changing meetings and reports — stopping some and starting some — your managers will not change. Particularly in organisations that are too good to change because the existing meetings and reports strongly reinforce your existing behaviours.
Add social rewards and social punishments
To change behaviours one of the critical levers is to change rewards. Rewards are both financial and social. Changing financial rewards is usually tough and takes time, so the fastest change we can make is to change social rewards and social punishments.
What do we mean by social rewards and punishments? Briefly, these are what behaviours people in the organisation praise and punish. Starting with rewards, can you publically recognise your employees for the new behaviours you want? So, for example if you wanted to encourage strategic behaviour that would make a difference to customers next financial year, but would cost the company this year, how could you reward this?
In monthly meetings have an agenda item asking for examples from this month. Praising your staff for good examples and questioning other staff asking why they did not have any examples would be using social rewards and social punishments.
Publicising good examples throughout the organisation is another example of social rewards. If the change is not important enough to merit public recognition like this, then ask yourself: is this change important enough for our organisation? If your organisations is too good to change, you will find it impossible to change without changing the social rewards and punishments.
In summary, to make change if your organisation is “Too good to change”, ensure that you: get REAL executive sponsorship; add new meetings and new reports and delete meetings and reports; and finally, add social rewards and social punishments. Without changing meetings, reports and rewards: behaviour will not change.
If you are not willing to change meetings, reports and rewards, then don’t try to change anything. Save your money, save your people’s time. Let your people keep focusing on this year’s results.
Before you get too confident, think about the words of successful UK businessman, Sir Martin Sorrell, writing about a book called Seduced By Success:
In another blog, even though you think you are too good to change we will explore: Why you must change?