There is a moment of truth in every organizational change that determines if the effort has a chance of succeeding or is destined to fail. It is the point where good intention is transformed into focused action. It when everyone looks at each other and says, “Oh, S**T! They’re Serious!”
There are three broad categories of people in every organizational change: the early adopters, the fence sitters, and the detractors.
The early adopters either (a) see the positive vision and take positive action to make the change work; or (b) see the handwriting on the wall and decided to jump on board early rather than risk having leadership see them as anything other than supportive.
The fence sitters have seen enough changes come and go to know that there is at least a reasonable chance that the change will go away if they can just wait it out. The fence sitters aren’t against the change. They may be ambivalent, or they may realize the work required to make the new idea work and decide to conserve their energy.
Detractors work either openly or silently to undermine the effort. The open detractors are the easiest to address because you know exactly where they stand. Open detractors often disagree out of legitimate concern that the organization is either doing the wrong thing or doing the right thing the wrong way.
Open detractors should be embraced as long as they are reasonable and respectful in their challenges. Experience shows that open detractors will often raise issues that should be actively considered and addressed.
The silent detractors are the most frustrating and potentially destructive. They can easily disguise themselves as fence sitters to your face and then de-rail your change through passive aggressive and clandestine subterfuge. Unlike the open detractor who will eventually come aboard with the change once their concerns have been addressed, the silent detractor may sabotage your change efforts for years.
The “Oh S**T! They’re Serious!” moment is designed to move the fence sitters off of dead center and send a clear message to the detractors that it is time to get on board or exit the train.
Creating the Moment
The “They’re Serious” moment requires visible action that sends a message. You will have to confront and possibly sacrifice a top performer who has consistently delivered results.
Let’s say that your company has a superstar regional manager who delivers amazing sales and operational results but consistently fails to follow the new reporting process you just rolled out.
Today, your superstar’s failure to follow the new change created a crisis that went all the way to the CEO before returning and landing in your lap.
If you want to send the message that change is important, you confront the regional manager, and take whatever action is appropriate – even if it costs you a star producer. If you want to lose the fence sitters and detractors, you overlook the action in favor of the solid revenue results.
People on your team are waiting to see how important every change you are making is to you. It is easy to hold a poor performer accountable. They want to see if the change applies to everyone – especially the stars.
Take that action and you will create the “Oh, S**T! They’re serious!” moment that creates the catalyst for true change.