We do a lot of consultancy pieces these days where we are called in to initiate change in a client organisation. An enterprise is often frustrated in not being able to achieve a necessary business objective and wants to parachute us in to finally make this happen. This can of course be due to a lack of in-house resource be that technical or just manpower.
There is another reason however and that can be to varying degrees quite challenging. It is usually a variation on the theme that the head of IT wants to achieve an objective, but that their support staff cannot or just will not support them adequately. We frequently see that both technical and business goals are not achieved over a period of months and often years; this seems incredible so far into the digital age.
Why is this? I do remember when I set out on what has proven to be a very long business career that a former boss asked me why was I frustrated by a subordinate not doing as requested, when I had previously told said boss that it was indeed the outcome I had always expected from them? In short, why be surprised by what you expected? So, what is the problem then? Well it’s nothing to do with the brave new technical world we live in - it’s just human nature.
Such resistance is often described as reactionary. In common usage, reactionary is a generally disparaging term used to describe a person or policy opposing progressive or promoting action or change to return to a past condition or situation.
Why would anyone choose this path over any attempt at constructive progress? First and foremost reactionary attitudes are not rational. A reactionary is someone reacting negatively to what others consider to be progress. Few would want to describe themselves as reactionary.
My experience is that the sense of prestige
and of belonging, which such a person may gain as a key member of a department, may be even more important to them than the values and aims of the business. Reactionary feelings are often coupled with a hostility to modern, business objectives and a nostalgia for more predictable times. So, can this be prevented?
Alienation bringing feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and estrangement from the group may predispose an individual against participation. Some argue, however, that there are different kinds of alienation. One type leads merely to apathy and resignation. Alienation, however, reflects a loss of faith in the enterprise community and can encourage the individual to join any movement that challenges it.
We often find that individuals or groups offering resistance are in indirect proportion to the morale and sense of engagement within an enterprise. It’s back to human nature. Once suitably engaged, informed and thus re-assured it’s rare for the reactionary attitudes to continue and indeed not transform themselves into part of the forward process.
Our view is that negative responses to change management are not a direct challenge to our own efforts, Sadly, they are usually present long before we are engaged and are a direct result of staff already feeling alienated from the business and its’ processes.
Usually we can help clients get their staff to where they could have got themselves given time and more commitment. A confident, experienced and capable mentor is usually all that is needed to break the log-jam.
Since our objective is to leave clients in a far better position than we found them we thus make the greatest of efforts to engage and enthuse everyone concerned. Thankfully it is not some brainwashing process but an attempt to transfer our own knowledge and enthusiasm for transformation that re-engages all concerned in a professional, responsible and meaningful manner. We all need to acknowledge that turning part of the problem into part of the solution is a result in itself.