Whenever a client engages us in helping them implement organizational change (especially company culture or behavioral norms) we spend a great deal of time helping them think about what they will have to be prepared to commit to if they are going to successfully implement the desired change. By thinking about that issue they are more able to come to terms with any mixed feelings they have about the planned change and its consequences.
Too often, without those conversations, companies implement the change then encounter ambivalence of resistance and say, “not so fast” or “we hadn’t planned on dealing with that.”
Here are a few real situations we have encountered over the years:
The Client Goal: To implement a robust performance management process with clearly defined metrics and rewards tied to results.
The Ambivalence: With an average length of service of over 15 years how do we deal with employees who don’t meet the new performance standards? What if, even after coaching, training, etc. the continue to fail to meet those standards?
The Client Goal: To establish behavioral standards for all levels of management, starting from the top down. Behavioral performance would now be a critical part of promotions and other forms of career advancement and rewards.
The Ambivalence: Some of our top performers in management positions exhibit the worst behaviors which is one of the reasons we are implementing this change. What if they rebel and leave? Are we prepared to coach and if necessary, confront continued bad behavior among top performers including consequences such as lower or no rewards?
The Client Goal: To address process inefficiencies and waste even though we are still profitable. We know we have to understand and deal with our cost structures and lack of process disciplines that are eroding our profit margins.
The Ambivalence: This is a major undertaking and we still have a business to run and customers to serve. Are we prepared to allocate the resources and possibly invest in new equipment or technology? Are we prepared to measure results and hold people accountable for achieving the desired improvements?
The Client Goal: We need to become more competitive with our compensation for key talent in an increasingly tight economic environment.
The Ambivalence: Are we prepared to assume the additional compensation costs and use a market positioning strategy? How will we deal with current employees who see similar positions in the company now paying noticeably more than ever before? If we commit to the new compensation approach what else might we have to do to ensure employee retention?
All companies encounter some degree of ambivalence during change. The effective ones willingly confront those mixed feelings and have the important discussions from the moment they identify the need for change and throughout the change process.