Do you have time to fix the real problem?
When profits are squeezed, bosses get busy trying to stop their loss.
New initiatives are quickly rolled out across the organisation, often involving campaigns, roadshows, metrics and incentives to get people to engage, collaborate and innovate, putting customers first. In a few weeks, everyone is aware of the new slogan and has memorised the fresh list of values and behaviours.
It all makes sense. Except...
... that these sort of initiatives can do more harm than good. They often confuse and distract the workforce, leaving people tired of change and eroding their trust on leadership.
Why does this happen and what can we do about it?
Of course, the intention is always good.
Many believe that running a(nother) campaign and making 'the right announcements' will clean the air, drive engagement and improve collaboration. But it just won't.
Culture doesn't change because of perks, promises or punishment. Pushing people to behave in a particular way makes very little difference to their engagement.
The reason these interventions don't work is that behaviours are outcomes, consequence of the beliefs (inputs) of an organisation. The mechanisms that develop beliefs in humans are quite different from the ones designed to control animal behaviour.
It is easier to focus on mass communication than to address more uncomfortable conversations:
- What's really important for us? Can we share this openly?
- Can we put metrics behind the promises we make to the market?
- Do we all want the same things?
- Are we addressing what makes us uncomfortable?
Unless people have a true and shared sense of purpose, they will seek refuge inside silos, create unnecessary bureaucracy, avoid innovation and focus on their own survival. Efforts will be wasted, making it harder for the next time change is needed.
Good news is that people can (and will) do amazing things when they truly believe that what they do contributes to a shared purpose, beyond just making their targets, getting a bonus and pleasing shareholders.
Of course these things are absolutely necessary, but they need to come in second place for the whole thing to work in the long run.