Yesterday I had a meeting with one of the most experienced people in the field of managing organizational change. We met to discuss the effects of individual’s self-sabotaging behaviors on the process. After a very productive discussion on that subject, I asked another question. “Chuck, once you organize and implement a program of change within an organization, how to you assure that it will not just go back to the way it was after you leave?” Those of you who work in this field know how important developing a good response to the question is. Without it, your reputation and the experience of the organization may suffer. Change takes a long time to settle in and become the norm.
Chuck’s response was enlightening. “We design and install systems that will reinforce the values that we are working to establish as well as penalize the behaviors that we are working to avoid.” I think there is much in this observation – particularly for consultants who work to engineer change.
In some ways, the installation of value reinforcing systems is akin to inserting a redesigned skeletal structure in a living body. Reforming the body is difficult if you are limited to cosmetic changes – changes that may only be temporary and require a great deal of continuing energy and resources to maintain. Seeing to the underlying structure can go a long way to assuring that the changes will take root and endure.
My companion made another observation that I found very useful. “We never institute a set of systems that are not in line with our own organizational values.” Two great insights in one meeting!!!
The issue here is the tendency of many consultants to adopt a “do as I say not as I do” approach to their engagements. How many do you know who advise clients on branding and image – while their own website and branding is a mess? How many consultants advise on effectively communicating your value proposition while doing a lousy job of communicating their own? How many advisers tout the value of systems and a professional approach while never thinking of applying these to their own practice? Does the saying ‘physician heal thy self’ come to mind?
Initial organizational change tends to be the easiest – the rush of trying something new often carries the day. But enduring change requires a longer view when it comes to planning and implementing and needs to involve the organization (client) over a much wider range – often from the Board of Directors and senior management down to the least senior employee – a change of culture that will support the maintenance of the new vision of the company.
© Dr. Earl R. Smith II