Organizations have a way of maintaining the status quo through reinforcing the old way of doing things and discouraging the new way. Even with sufficient communication and training, individuals still may not do things differently, because the organization (or really everyone else within it) somehow prevents them from changing.
If your change is not getting the results you expect, it could be that the following things are going on in your organization:
- Attempts to discuss the need for change are met with awkward silence.
- When people try the new behavior, their peers tease them.
- Managers express irritation when efficiency slides as employees experience a learning curve.
- When people do change, their supervisor ignores their accomplishment.
- When an employee keeps doing things the old way, no one addresses it.
- One employee sees another getting away with not changing, thinks it’s unfair, and decides he isn’t going to do it either.
- Employees get recognized for achieving results, even though they got it done the old way.
- Those who express concern or hesitation about change are labeled “resisters” and treated as adversaries.
- Out of deference to authority, employees do not provide feedback or offer differing ideas to managers.
- People who want to get involved in the change project are considered by their supervisors as too valuable to participate.
- Leaders provide information on a “need to know” basis, leaving much of the change shrouded in mystery.
- Managers make locally optimizing decisions that either don’t support or directly conflict with the change.
- People still do things the old way, so just in case the new way doesn’t work, they won’t be blamed.
- Asking for help is viewed as a weakness, so people struggle alone or give up without the support they need.
- Worried they will increase dissatisfaction or fear, leaders don’t transparently communicate why the organization needs to change.
- People who built the way it is now are insulted by and protect it from those who want to make it better.
- When problems arise with the project, more effort is spent looking for excuses instead of looking for solutions.
- Misalignment with policies forces employees to choose between following the rules and implementing the change.
- Methods for resource allocation and incentives encourage turf wars instead of collaboration.
- Due to outside pressure, getting it done now is considered more important than getting it done right.
Over time, your organization developed mechanisms for keeping everyone in line and for achieving the results it’s getting. Look for the ways your organization keeps things the way they are, and deliberately break those habits in order to enable change. Otherwise, the old way will inadvertently be reinforced and the new way avoided.
Which of these have you seen in your own organization? What would you add to the list?