As a communicator, one of the most enlightening aspects of training for Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) is the focus on mid-managers during change within a large organization. When they aren’t on board with a major change, they can truly represent a black hole. Many organizations have made the mistake of going this route (below):
- Executive leaders sign on and sponsor the change initiative
- These leaders issue the edict/pep talk in a memo to all staff
- Mid-managers shrug their shoulders and quietly begin passive resistance.
- Staff listens to their managers and adopts the “who cares” attitude; indifference and resistance builds.
In any cheese-moving, game-changing upheaval, the most resistance to change will typically come from those who have the highest vested interest in things remaining the same. As AIM’s Don Harrison puts it: long-employed managers have been told for years that if they play by the rules, they’ll advance. Now you’re changing the rules. They’re confused, afraid, and/or angry. That’s why our communication tools during change focus on managers – helping them to absorb it and articulate it for their staff.
Resistance can surface “out of nowhere.” I’ve been part of a major organization-wide change where it was realized in the 11th hour right before go-live that a whole department was on the sidelines and hadn’t done any of the training. The department’s director calmly commented: “Oh, didn’t we tell you, we’ve decided not to participate.” Needless to say, that wasn’t an option.
So I’ve learned not to confuse awareness with understanding, much less subscription to the cause. We strive in our communication programs to answer two questions: “How does this impact me?” and “What’s in it for me?”