We recently blogged about the abysmal rates of successful change initiatives in organizations (70 percent fail!), and mentioned that one reason is unwritten rules that discourage change. Another reason is that change programs are often linked to an incentive that actually doesn’t incentivize very well: Money.
In “The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management”, (http://bit.ly/1woQGIJ). McKinsey & Co.’s Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken note that while many leaders attempt to link change programs to employee compensation, this type of motivation can be expensive, impractical, and not all that effective. More effective by far are small, unexpected rewards. For example, Gordon M. Bethune, who turned around Continental Airlines, sent a surprise $65 check to every employee when the airline made it to the top 5 for on-time flights. John McFarlane of ANZ Bank sent a bottle of champagne to every employee for Christmas with a card thanking them for their work on the company’s “Perform, Grow and Breakout” change program.
Why are small, unanticipated rewards more effective? Because employees perceive them as a “social exchange” versus a “market exchange.” A social exchange has the feel of a personal “thank you”—like bringing a bottle of wine to your dinner hosts, as opposed to a business transaction—like asking for the bill in a restaurant. In short, as we have long said, unanticipated rewards are invaluable because people work best when they feel personally recognized and appreciated!
Please share your experience. What was the last time you got an unexpected reward at work? How did it make you feel and how did it impact your performance? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
"Unwritten" Rules Can Block Change
About 70% of changes in all organizations fail, says research from McKinsey and Company (http://bit.ly/1woQGIJ). Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance, cites one of the key reasons: Many organizational cultures function with two opposing sets of rules.
The “official” rules—often appearing on company websites and employee handbooks—are the ones where the organization claims to value innovation, teamwork, inclusiveness, and open communication. The “unofficial” rules—often learned the hard way by those who follow the first set and find themselves in the proverbial doghouse—are change-blockers. They reward conformity, competitiveness, even secrecy. (http://bit.ly/1BS1ijE)
We have, unfortunately, witnessed this too many times. Successful change is enabled by a climate of engagement and dialogue in which new ideas and creative collaboration are encouraged—and not just espoused. Leaders who genuinely want to facilitate change in a world where change is critical to survival must courageously assess whether counter-productive rules exist, and do all in their power to align their organization’s aspirational goals with its real ones.
We want to hear. Can you give us an example of any unwritten rules you have run up against, and how those rules had an impact on organizational change? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In our last Communication Capsule, we mentioned the benefits of kicking off brainstorming sessions with two minutes of silent writing before sharing ideas with the group, round-robin style, with no evaluation. This can lead to fresher, more creative ideas—but that won’t help your group if you or your colleagues tend to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the new.
As Judith Glaser, who studies “conversational intelligence” notes—and as history has shown repeatedly—truly original ideas are often met with spontaneous rejection, precisely because they are alien to our current culture. (The founder of FedEx got a “C” for an academic paper outlining his idea for an overnight delivery service.) And rejection may mean that the idea’s creator feels rejected, and unlikely to contribute another new idea soon.
Step 3 of our brainstorming protocol is key: Instead of attacking and rejecting, all team members (again, silently and in writing) prioritize their top three actions— those they believe are most significant and doable. When each team member advocates for their top choices in round robin, input is shared by all—not just the first and the loudest. And the group focus remains on selecting the most positive solution—not rejecting the weirdest.
Please share your experience. Have you ever had an idea rejected because it was “too original?” How do you encourage colleagues to be more creative? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum
Brainstorming meetings are a widespread practice, but brainstorming may actually be counterproductive when it turns into a blurt-fest, with early—and often least creative ideas—given an inordinate amount of attention.
"Early ideas tend to have disproportionate influence over the rest of the conversation," says Loran Nordgren, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management, in a recent Fast Company article. Her studies show that groups in which individuals write first and share ideas in an organized manner afterward generate 20 percent more ideas than “shout it out” forums.
We are not surprised! For years we have taught a collaborative protocol for brainstorming in which the first step is silence. For two minutes, team participants reflect on the question in writing, unconstrained by convention. Phase 2 involves round robin input where each group member shares one idea at a time until all ideas are recorded in the group memory (on flip chart paper). The key in this step: No evaluation! Initiating brainstorming with these two phases eliminates disproportionate influence of early ideas—and brings the quietest voices into the meeting.
We want to hear: What have been your brainstorming experiences? Were the meetings more or less productive when speaking or writing came first? Please share your responses here.
When we find ourselves in conflict with a co-worker we tend to attribute it to personality differences. Even if we don’t know the other person very well, we may jump to conclusions based on limited exposure, perhaps stereotyping them as a “micromanager”, or “competitive.” But although it’s cognitively efficient to categorize, labeling is toxic in conflict resolution.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, organizational consultant Ben Dattner points out that management and corporate culture may inadvertently create conflict between individuals. For instance, roles and levels of authority may not be well defined, or individuals’ interests may be truly opposed because they have been given incentives to compete rather than collaborate.
To assess whether a conflict is situational, start by asking yourself, “What conflicts might be experienced by any two people in the roles we have?” Then ask your colleague the same question. You may find common ground and can jointly approach those in leadership to reconsider the dynamics that are generating the conflict.
Please share your experience. Have you ever found yourself in conflict with a colleague because of a situational circumstance? What did you do about it? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.