Recently I came across a list of "Unfortunate Laws of Human Organizational Behavior " from Harwell Thrasher, author of Boiling the IT Frog: How to Make Your Business Information Technology Wildly Successful Without Having to Learn Anything Technical. Some of you may be familiar with his 10 "tongue slightly in cheek" laws. But for those of you who are not, I offer laws #6 and #7 for further discussion:
6. "Rarely, a new manager will actually ask the employees what should be improved. If the employees understand how their organization contributes to the company's performance, then they will undoubtedly provide a better answer than the manager's experience."
7. "Sometimes the manager will hire a consultant. The consultant will then ask the employees what should be improved, and the result will be put into a PowerPoint® presentation, then ignored by the manager."
I admit those two made me smile and I'm guessing that some of you will too. I wasn't smiling because of pleasant memories. No, indeed, I was recalling all of those times that someone got promoted and proceeded to make changes without talking to the employees who would be most impacted by these changes. This was particularly galling when the new manager came from outside the organization and had no clue about how and why things were done the way they were at his new organization. Worse, it made people feel uninvolved, without a stake in seeing any new directives succeed. Guess, what happened? The changes the new manager put into play didn't work out. Of course, that person was gone by the time the real damage was done.
As for law #7, well I've seen that one in play too. The consultant comes in and talks to everyone involved, taking copious notes along the way. The results end up in an impressive presentation, filled with succinct bullet points and colorful companion graphics. Those in upper management are impressed and everyone smells a big change in the air. But if you come back six months later, little has happened. The excitement originally felt when the presentation was made has been eclipsed by the latest bit of bad news and everyone is back to doing things exactly the way they were done before.
It all boils down to the fact that change is difficult. Handling it well is something that many companies fail at. And if you've been through enough of these poorly handled situations, you end up being somewhat cynical the next time someone announces a big change management strategy session. Sound familiar? I hope you don't fall prey to this in 2011. Corporate life is tough enough without poor management mistakes making it worse.