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DOF - when to tell colleagues to ´Get over it´

Friday, September 17, 2010

It may be surprising to see how much better the organization will work with a leader having the guts to say it like it is, says Dutch Holland.
By Dr. Dutch Holland, PhD, Holland & Davis LLC, a service line of
Endeavor Management

holland.jpgSometimes all the great methods and tools for change engineering, change management, organizational re-alignment and operational integration just don’t work.  Despite trying as hard as possible, successful implementation just does not happen.

At its core, an organizational change such as a DOF implementation is a “contact sport.”

Or, as another veteran of technology insertions said, “You just have to face the fact that there will be trench warfare with some of these clowns.” (He was, by the way, speaking of experienced professionals with all sorts of educational initials after their names.)

Let’s say that Bill Smith has been charged to lead a DOF implementation in his part of the business and welcomes the challenge.  

However, with some of the managers and employees, it feels as though he has hit a brick wall.  Why?

Communications about the new way of doing business have been repeated and repeated. Work processes have been altered to fit with the new software application. Everybody has been trained in the new software as well as how to use it in the altered work processes.  Their job descriptions have even been altered to reflect the new way of doing business.

Still, a handful of scattered people have problems.

Before giving up, Smith might want to try the “heretofore unpublished Secret Weapons of the effective change leader.”  

The Secret Weapons are actually direct messages, carefully designed for one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball delivery to one or more individuals who have distinguished themselves in the DOF implementation project by their total blindness and/or disregard for what is going on around them.

There are no real surprises in the three weapons which follow. All come to mind automatically to the dedicated change leader in the thick of any technology insertion.

Normally the change leader keeps them unspoken; he thinks the thoughts, then bites his tongue and puts on his smiling game face.  

The purpose of this discussion is to encourage the leader to say those thoughts out loud…to make effective change happen for the organization.  

The messages are naturally designed to destabilize the current situation, serve as a warning, a kick in the rear end, a jolt and a jar.

The messages are designed to remove obstacles that have so far been unscathed by conventional change leadership approaches. In addition, delivering these weapons will just feel good. No more Mr/Ms. Indirect; say what needs to be said.

Get over it

Two energy service organizations had been merged for almost a year. All the legal paperwork was behind them; all the signs, stationery, product catalogs and Web sites had been adjusted to the one new company name. Customers were starting to react positively, things were moving forward … except for one senior manager. He continued to whine about the fact that now he was required to work with another senior manager who had been his most fierce competitor before the merger. What’s more, he was being asked to use a business software application which came with the other company. Whine, complain, delay, mumble, grumble, ad nausea.  Sound familiar?

Finally, ater hearing both second and third hand about another whining tirade, the CEO had enough. He had already had more than a half dozen motivational and inspirational sessions with Mr. Whine to catalog the positive reasons for the merger, the necessity to use the software and to sing “There’s going to be a morning after.”

Enough was enough. The CEO made a surprise visit to Mr. Whine and after taking a chair said, “I gather you are still not comfortable with this merger.” The surprised Mr. Whine said that, in fact, was true.

“Well then, get over it,” said the CEO as he stood to walk out of the office without another word or a glance over his shoulder. And you know what? Mr. Whine got over it, that very day. Sooner or later everybody has to just get over some things and get on with business and life.

The message to the implementing organization is that “We (our company) have made a considered decision, after tons of input from multiple levels, to implement systems that will give us real-time data on a 24/7 basis. We’re going to use that data to make better production decisions, starting now. If you have lingering hard feelings, Get Over It.”

“Oh, Balderdash.”

The world-renowned geoscientist was well into his third page of reading aloud the reasons why not one iota of his operating methods could be changed to incorporate a five-second entry in a new information system. Supposedly, his personal quest to solve the mysteries of the known and unknown universes would be hopelessly and forever derailed. His guest could feel internal pressure building after hearing yet another detailed, but stupid, rationalization. This imminent professional just plain didn’t want to be bothered with any duties associated with supporting the very company that housed, fed, funded and coddled him.

The guest set his feet firmly, looked deep into the geoscientist’s eyes to signal his turn to talk, waited a second or two longer then expected, smiled, and then said, “Oh, Balderdash.”  (To be fair, other words may work better than Balderdash in the oil patch.)
Imagine how good that felt and picture the look on the geoscientist’s face as he processed that unthinkable comment from hell. “Everybody knows that the five-second data entry requirement will not affect a darn thing.” His guest just turned and walked away, leaving him to examine exactly where he stood in light of that surprising, direct evaluation.

“Your move.”

Jane was bending her visitor’s ear for the third time in a week, going on and on about how the latest change in work processes was not ideal from where she stood.

It just wasn’t the optimum way she had been taught to handle gas lift calculations. Yes, she understood that the work re-design and the new software were initiated to meet specific business needs, and she understood that everybody’s opinions in the department had been heard and evaluated as well as used in the new design. She finally ended her latest latest harangue with a look that said, “So, what do you think of that?”

Looking at her and smiling, the visitor said “Your move.”

“Your move?,” she said, “What kind of answer is that? What do you mean, my move?”  He responded, “It means, your move. The company and I have done all we can do to describe the change that we will be making next week. Now it’s your move. Join us, please or leave us, please.  But, no more harangues. It’s your move. The ball is in your court.”  

Helping people

Sometimes it’s necessary to help people see the need to make a choice from among limited alternatives. They must either sign up to go forward with the organization or make another choice that suits them best. Staying in their current job and complaining about it is just not an option in today’s world of fast-paced change. “But she is just too important to lose,” readers may say. “Oh Balderdash.”  

Now, candidly, who hasn’t said all of these messages to themselves? Most have, and now may be the time to bring those messages out in the open and use them as the secret weapons they can be.

Don’t bring them out like the exasperated parent -- with stone-cold eyes, a rock-hard face, an aggressive body stance or a “you are about to die” look. Instead use warm eyes, your smiling face, an informal stance, open hands; deliver with care for the individual, the organization and oneself.

Now just in case this discussion appears to have been written tongue in cheek, let’s close out with a hard-nosed fact about change leadership. Most people will probably never lead a successful change in organizational behavior until they personally acknowledge that their behavior may play a big role in the change equation. That’s a truth.

So, as a final shot, please consider the times when it may be necessary to direct the Secret Weapons inward. Yep, standing up, looking into the mirror and letting fly the message(s) that everyone needs to hear to get on with their part of the implementation.

Unfortunately, these secret weapons won’t always work. Not everybody resisting change can be recovered. Yet it may be surprising to see how much better the organization will work with a leader having the guts to say it like it is. Try it and feel much better. Good luck.

Associated Companies
» Holland & Davis LLC

External Links
» Holland Davis

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