My husband is the audio director for North Point Community Church, an admitted “megachurch” designed so that people who don’t normally go to church can go there and feel comfortable. The staff there goes to great lengths to avoid what they call “cringe factors.”
I don’t think there is an official definition for cringe factor; it’s something that you know when you see it… or really when you feel it. You feel a cringe factor in your face when you flinch from what you’ve just heard. Your shoulders might tense and you might even feel sick to your stomach a little bit. You might even throw your hands in front of your face in an attempt to block the offending message. If you haven’t already while reading this, take a second to cringe and see what it feels like.
The church, of course, wants to avoid this feeling in its target demographic, people who might be looking for a reason not to come back next Sunday. And you want to avoid this feeling in your organization toward your change initiative.
In my experience, the most prominent category of cringe factors in organizations is terminology. For example, I’ve worked with a number of people who implemented Balanced Scorecards without calling them Balanced Scorecards. They deliberately selected another name because there was either a bad connotation from a previous bad experience or the term was considered to be too high on the jargon list. Other cringe factors include the incentive program that doesn’t quite align with people’s motivation, or a leader saying something that seems hypocritical.
Pay attention to the things that make you cringe as you design a new program or listen to leaders talk about your change initiative. Recruit other people in the organization to tell you about cringe factors that they experience. Then, see what you can do to avoid them. The last thing you want is for people in the organization to have an automatic negative visceral reaction to your change initiative!
What might be your cringe factors?