Five Reasons Your Project isn’t Getting any Love

 

turning a deaf ear

You’ve gotten the sign off all the way up the executive ladder. Why is no one listening??

You’ve gotten the green light. The executive committee signed off. Everyone held hands, blessed the plan and said “Go Forth and create this change!” So why the heck isn’t anyone listening to anything you say?

They’re paid to resist.

Is their job function tied to the original structure? Would their skills or value as an employee be in jeopardy if your change plan works? If so, don’t expect them to be the first to jump onboard the change train.

They’re paid to resist (Part 2)

Does their compensation structure (particularly when commission or tier-based) reward them more significantly for other activities? If they can make 2-3 times the commission or fees based on doing what they’ve always done, and it will make up for any penalties or commissions lost by not doing what you want them to do, why would they choose to behave otherwise?

There are bigger issues at hand.

Is your company facing lawsuits, regulatory pressure, a revolution in the industry’s way of doing things or delivering product? If that’s going on, unless your project immediately and significantly contributes to solving that pain, it’s going to be the low man on the totem pole. Think about it, if you are in the horse and buggy business, and your business  is being threatened by the automobile, your project for more durable horse harnesses is not going to be a top priority.

You’re not making the benefits clear, or your benefits aren’t beneficial to them. 

Are you communicating the WHY of doing things in a new way?  And is that “why” compelling?  As we are taught in sales training, people spend too much time talking about features (how a product or service does something) vs. benefits (This product will help you do X in less time, and allow you to have greater revenue which will get you a great year end bonus). As a project leader, we spend much time dwelling on the features because you’re “building” the project. You have to sell the benefits to get people to cooperate.

You’re stretching them so far out of their comfort zone they’re afraid of looking stupid.

Never underestimate the discomfort factor.  Are you making them learn something they don’t think they’ll be good at? Are you having them interact with a new customer base or manufacturing process that they perceive will have a high risk of blow back on their career prospects if they fail?

They didn’t sign up for this: 

When you change how something is done, you may be forgetting that many of the people working in that industry consciously or subconsciously chose their profession in part because it didn’t focus on that skillset. A recent example is the number of doctors, nurses and medical professionals struggling with the fun of incorporating the required Electronic Health Records (EHR) protocols into their practices.  From the intricacies of having to chart patients via computer to the added issues of having to answer emails from patients on a 24/7 basis, this is a very new activity for many in the medical profession. While many are very computer proficient, it’s not exactly what they signed up for in a career, and much of that resistance comes with the package. “I can piece together the human body after multiple gunshot wounds and you think I should do what with this computer?!”

Many years ago I worked in a public library system, just as the DOS based internet was becoming a major research tool. We had several senior librarians, who were near retirement age, who opted for early retirement rather than have to master the rather difficult computer programming required to use the system. These were smart people who loved books, and chose their profession based on that, rather than computers. For many, at 57 or 58 years old, they just were unwilling to have to relearn their entire profession, and face the possibility of looking stupid in front of a teenager on a computer at the same time.

We’ve talked about resistance to change before, if you haven’t already done so, read What Dieter’s can teach us about Organizational Change and Change does not Occur in a Vacuum.

What other situations have you seen? Can you figure out why your team resisted? Share your successes and your mysteries in the comments below:

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Need help testing what you “know” to be true? Download our free Field Guide for understanding the organizational landscape before you begin creating change. “Reading the Terrain” gives you easy questions to ask yourself that will help you see your world with fresh eyes and broaden your perspective.  Sign up at the right to receive our newsletter and you’ll get a free link to download our guide. And no, we won’t bombard you with junk mail.

Why do Employees Resist Change, a simple graphic from Torben Rick

Courtesy of the always insightful Torben Rick, read more of his great stuff here!


Resistance to change in organizations - Torbenrick

Need more info on why Organizations resist change? Read What Dieters can Teach us about Creating Organizational Change!

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

What Dieters can Teach us about Creating Organizational Change:

hit with the boomerang

Is your organization “boomeranging” right back to where it started?

Any dieter will gladly tell you about the body’s “set points.” For those of you who have been spared the joys of lifelong dieting, a quick synopsis is that our bodies have a “set point” a body weight or status that it will try to return to, despite behavioral changes. It is basically a “comfort zone” that uses the body’s tendency towards homeostasis to drive itself towards a certain functioning model. Think of it as a rubber band that has been stretched, snapping back into its original shape.

The question is; do businesses have a set point? Is there a “comfort zone” business model that most businesses, despite the outward flurry of change activities or new mission statements, will attempt to return to time and again?

Years ago I worked with a non-profit who had built itself around a key volunteer activity. Long after that activity ceased to return results as it had in the past, it was kept, a “sacred cow” due to the history of the organization. Which is fine if it is a conscious choice, but rather than acknowledge that the time had passed and keep the activity as a “nice to have” rather than a key income driver, endless attempts were made over and over again to revitalize that activity to bring it back to the center of the revenue plan.

Another example is an individual employee.  When they first start their employment they may learn a particular task they had not known how to do before. Or they are given the responsibility for a section of the P&L, a marketing activity, or a key account.  Ten years later, they will still have a particular bias towards that activity or account. This can be a great thing, where the depth of knowledge around the topic can be beneficial, or a blind spot, when they give undue weight to that item at the expense of the big picture.

For every “we tried that back in 2005” that a change agent gets (complete with the implied “and it didn’t work you imbecile”), it is worth considering that the audience is trying hard to return to a model or activity that is in their set point.  No one could possibly sell 200 widgets a day until someone does.  The problem is, once someone sells 200 widgets, it puts everyone who can’t sell 200 widgets on notice and possibly, makes them obsolete.  This is when you’ll see the accusations of “cheating” or “undue advantage”. Sometimes they’re right.   Sometimes they’re 100% right.   And other times, they’re just headed back for the comfort zone.

Have you noticed a “return to set point” in your attempts at organizational change?

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Rule # 9: Change Does Not Occur in a Vacuum

Shadows of change

Great Strategists understand they operate in the shadows of the history that came before.

Seth Godin said this so much more eloquently than I can; he calls it “The People Who Came Before You.”  When you begin to share your strategic plan with your team or your organization, you are standing in the shadow of all the ghosts who enacted change, or attempted to, with the same group. You are standing in the shadow of their experiences in other workplaces, at home and in past relationships.

If cost reduction strategies have always started with massive layoffs in the past, regardless of your words, the team will only hear “layoffs.”  If revenue growth meant giant sales goals that bore no relationship to reality, your “increase sales with our new strategy” will be reinterpreted as “We’re going to get some new scripting to take to the field and then they’ll raise our goal numbers.” Did the last strategic planning session feature a boring four day retreat followed by a zippy new mission statement and a binder that was shelved for all eternity the day after the retreat? Well, your call for a new focus on strategic planning will likely be met with some new mission statement suggestions and a request to vet the hotel location so everyone can set their tee times up front.

Ghosts take a heavy toll on team progress, especially when they are confronting change. Respect that the people you are asking to make that leap are carrying the baggage of many past adventures, the good, the bad, the awful and hopefully, the fantastic.  Having the right team in place before your unleash your plan is an important step. Asking that team about what has happened in the past, will help you unroll your plan to the larger audience in a way that can help people trust you enough to make the leap.

Want to get all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Click HERE

What Baggage have you had to address when rolling out new plans? How did you handle it? Please share in the comments below!

P.S. Think you covered all of that and your project still isn’t getting any love? Try here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Some great questions to ask yourself and your team about your group’s previous adventures in change are in our Free guide: Reading the Terrain – A Short Field Guide to Understanding the Organizational Landscape. You can get it just for subscribing in the box at right. We don’t share your contact info with anyone else, and you’ll get free updates when this site adds new content.

Rule # 1: Are you an Aspirin or a Vitamin?

Know your role.What's your Role in Creating Change?

Be an aspirin or a vitamin, as Coach Jodie Charlop likes to remind me. Either your role in change is to take away pain (an aspirin) or inject new life into the group (a vitamin).  In change management you have to be aware that your team (aka “the body”) may not be delighted to see you initially. In some cases the response may well be similar to that of a near-fatal allergic reaction.

If you’re an aspirin, you need to dig to the source of pain and relieve the suffering, hopefully heading off worse damage. You may affect systems beyond your initial target as you work to attack the serious underlying issues that are stressing the system.

Side Effects:

  • May cause dizziness if deployed rapidly.
  • Initial fixes may only mask deeper problems.
  • Excessive thinning of staff or resources may occur.

A vitamin can initially be a shock to the system, creating surges of energy in areas not previously disturbed, or highlighting areas that hadn’t performed at their peak. A vitamin may drive a new level of performance or set new revenue goals.

Side Effects:

  • Stomach upset may result when you rock the status quo.
  • May cause fatigue.
  • Healthy new regimens take time to become habit.

In any change management situation, you will likely have the majority of your actions fall into one camp or the other but will need to know the expected side effects of both.

What are the most common situations you’ve run into when you’ve been an aspirin or a vitamin? Share in the comments section.

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Get our free guide to understanding the corporate landscape by subscribing in the box at the right. 

© Jeanne Goldie 2015