Second in a series
By David Goldsmith with Lorrie Goldsmith
Why do we constantly hear that people hate change, when there’s evidence to the contrary?
After all, people love receiving pay raises, moving into their dream home, welcoming the arrival of a new baby, and finding a fun, new restaurant to frequent. And no one from Oprah’s audience complained when she gave them a car, even though that was a “change.”
In actuality, people don’t repel all change, only change that is negative — and in some instances when change is perceived as negative because it simply wasn’t expected.
Changes people hate are most common in organizations
Though it seems obvious that you need to manage the changes that take place within your organization so that they produce favorable outcomes, this feat can be easier said than done.
That’s because the changes people hate and resist — negative and unexpected changes — are the ones that are most common in organizations: modifications to a benefits program that make paychecks come up $20 short, a new computer system that requires overtime hours to work out the kinks, an additional weekly meeting added to the schedule that takes away time from other tasks, and so on.
Years ago, a state-run environmental conservation organization replaced its manual process of administering hunting and fishing licenses with a computerized system. The new system cost $15 million and initially extended patrons’ wait time from 20 minutes to five hours and 14 minutes.
Imagine dealing with those customers. If you worked at this organization, how receptive would you be to the next initiative?
Change is necessary in organizations — without it, organizations stagnate and die. So despite resistant workers, as a decision maker you have to forge ahead with making the upgrades and improvements that sustain and grow your organization. Understanding why people resist change and which types of changes they actually hate will help you do the job your organization needs and achieve targeted results. The first step is properly rolling out the change.
How to make change a welcome friend
When you know how to introduce change and how to follow it through so your group achieves more gains with fewer pains, change can become a welcomed friend within your organization.
Picture this: Kyle is a midlevel manager who picks up some ideas at a conference and decides to use them to develop a new initiative that he thinks may improve his organization. He pulls his team together to tell them the details of his plan. His team is not receptive to the change, because Kyle has a history of poor follow-through and for not thinking through projects well, and his staff is already overloaded with projects and will not receive extra pay for the late nights they’ll have to work to complete this new initiative on time.
Let’s change the story: After Kyle attends the inspiring conference, he doesn’t rush ahead to tell his staff, but he lets them do their jobs while he takes time to think and to select one best idea from the many he came away with from the conference. Kyle gains input and ideas from a few coworkers as he develops a realistic plan.
After a week of refining the details, Kyle invites one co-worker, Mary, to manage the project. He has calculated the ROI as $200,000 for the next three years and he explains that if Mary’s project comes in on time and on budget, he will reward her with a salary increase of $2,000.
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Mary manages the project, and because Kyle has given her the supplies she needs and the right balance of freedom and direction to succeed, she finishes it a few weeks early, bringing additional benefits to their organization. In this scenario, Kyle, with Mary’s help, has a Wildly Successful Project (WSP), and if this is Mary’s first experience with Kyle and his projects — versus an experience of him lacking follow-through and failure with projects — she’s going to be more receptive to changes initiated by him in the future.
What’s a Wildly Successful Project?
Let me define what I mean by a Wildly Successful Project. A WSP is a completed project that demonstrates a manager’s ability to deliver results that extend beyond normal expectations and causes others to take notice. Typically, WSPs come from projects that others consider to be undesirable or challenging to pull off, not necessarily projects that are fun and easy to perform.
For example, say that you’re on the board of an association whose president is looking for someone to tackle membership recruitment. You volunteer for the project at a time when no one else is willing to take on this huge challenge. Although you accept the responsibility of increasing membership by 10 percent, you actually achieve a 230 percent increase by improving your association’s product offerings, rolling out more attractive membership packages, and redirecting publicity to active members.
By proving yourself as a person who delivers on challenging projects, you have added a WSP to your track record. Opportunities for completing WSPs are boundless: completing projects that enable your organization to gain a foothold in an emerging market or that turn around a money-bleeding social program would be considered WSPs, in contrast to average projects that are easy to do or that don’t present outstanding outcomes.
Like Kyle, you want to establish a track record of WSPs, because projects of this caliber do more than earn profits or funding. They also earn the confidence and trust of all organizational stakeholders, from the boardroom to the front line and from the managers on staff to the allies and colleagues external to your organization.
When you are known for your WSPs, you can more easily gain buy-in on future projects from the stakeholders who play a role in your success. If Kyle were your manager and he helped you succeed on past projects where the rewards involved promotions, awards, projects for your resume, or cash raises, how likely would you be to approach Kyle and request to manage more projects in the future? Is your group excited to take on more work? Do they come to you and ask for more work?
The kind of change that managers and leaders like Kyle introduce is both expected and positive. And people love this kind of change.
Excerpted with permission from Paid to THINK: A Leaders Toolkit for Redefining Your Future, by David Goldsmith with Lorrie Goldsmith. Copyright (c) 2012, BenBella Books.
Miss Part 1? See Paid to Think: The Benefits of Winning by a Nose.