Change Management Pet Peeves

Let’s face it, change management is hard enough as is. Some actions of professional adults can really make my head spin. I’m talking about the person that works so hard to derail the project, but in many ways often has so much to gain from it. If they would just put in the same level of effort to make it happen, it would get done twice as fast.

You know the type…

004-300x163They demand to be included in the change management effort, but refuse to come to any of the meetings or read any of the minutes and materials being created by those working hard to make the change a success. Then they come in several weeks later and they completely want to derail the effort by taking you back to the beginning and tell you that you what they think you haven’t done and what they think needs to be done.

Then there are those that simply want to revisit the very first points or relive how we got here at every meeting. They simply can’t move past that. They want everyone to endure hours of explanation of why it is the way it is today. Just when you think you have enough as-is, they want to add more the next meeting. They are stuck in the way it’s being done now.

There are those that use others as their excuse for slowing up progress. They say they are 100% behind the effort! but they need to protect their people. They use their bosses as scapegoats for their question, “Well, my boss has concerns and I’m just trying to get them out in the open.” All the while, you have socialized the change with leadership, who are 100% on board and their people are excited about the change. This is a typical middle management stance.

Then you have those that participate in the change effort, but take every opportunity to grandstand on topics that just prove how unsupportive they are of the entire organization. My recent example of this person was someone who passes themselves off as an expert, but isn’t even certified. Then he blames his lack of certification on the organization, not himself. Then states, he refuses to wear company logo items because the company doesn’t pay him to advertise for them. None of these things have anything to do with the project, but clearly demonstrate the need to remove someone from their current job.

Then you have the “I’ve already solved that,” group. These are the ones that get me the most. Everyone has spent hours defining what is wrong that needs to get changed. Suddenly, as you get down the road, someone who should have fixed the problem long ago, starts chiming in that they’ve already solved the problems that are being addressed. It’s almost always those that should have solved the problem in the first place. They have put some bandaid on the item or put a un-resourced plan in place to fix something and suddenly that isn’t a problem anymore. Basically, these people simply want you to move past these issues, because you’re highlighting their ineffectiveness up to this point.

Then you have the cheerleaders for the negative. These are the people that one-on-one are supportive and behind the effort. Then, you get in a meeting and one person speaks out against an idea and suddenly there they are cheering them on. What’s worse is when you have a room of cheerleaders, who individually tell you to your face they are behind you and then the first chance they get, they’re on you like a pack of starved dogs.

Nothing can be more frustrating than the inclusive disagreement. You bring certain people in on a change effort because you know they are going to be a problem and you really want their buy in. They come up with ideas and approaches that are pretty good. However, every time you adopt their idea or approach they turn around later and try to shoot it down. You make them inclusive to the solution, you accept their approach, and then they disagree. Here’s your cigarette and blindfold, let’s step out back.

Over the last six years I have been involved in many major change management efforts. These same people show up in every effort. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Dealing with the ones that simply flat out refuse to change, in my mind, are easy. These people above frustrate me to no end. These are the ones that pretend to your face that they are supportive and team players and then prove themselves wrong at every turn.

What’s worse is that I don’t think they even realize what they’re doing half the time. I recently had someone tell me how much they needed to be involved in the effort, but they hadn’t been to one meeting that we’ve had and never sent a delegate. I asked if the minutes and material were detailed enough to demonstrate what we we’re doing and if they’re keeping them informed and they simply said, “Oh, I haven’t read the minutes.” Then, after totally tearing down the meeting and the whole effort, they say that I need to add another person to the meeting in their place as a delegate and, half way through the meeting, they take a phone call and have to run off to another important meeting. Note: the meeting we were having was specifically set up for that person.

In all of these cases, this is where strong change leadership is key. When you have these type of people, you need your change leadership to step in and have a talk with these people. Like I said, in many ways, they are simply acting the way they have always acted. I’m sure that you can understand how the person in the above example could cause significant problems throughout an organization with that type of behavior. You know that is the way they operate every day and you’re project is just experiencing it for the first time.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

4 Responses to Change Management Pet Peeves

  1. Cynthia Woodman says:

    Have you found these types of workers more prevalent in government or large matrix organizations?

  2. Thomas Hübner says:

    I feel with you. I used to work for a company where I faced excately the same. To me, it is a cultural matter. First, these people were not familiar with Change Management at all. Completely unable to cope. Second, the company had no stratedgy, no plan where to go and what to do. And why. Third, the company nominated the ‘wrong’ people to support. Lack of experience, training, understanding, etc. And even worse, during the whole project there was no comittment of the top Management. To sum up: In company’s with a low maturity it is hard or even impossible to successfully practice Change Management.

  3. Paul Muller says:

    Wow John it appears that your stakeholders are mostly resisters of the change efforts and since I heard little about folks neutral about the change (fence sitters who normally make up 60% of the stakeholder population) and a few known opponents turned idea people of the change who shoot down their own ideas later on. Hence these folks were game players to derail the change and cannot be rallied to leveragage the overt opponents. I would agree that the culture in the organization sounds quite toxic. People who asked you to partipate in the project meetings and don’t show up may have wanted to participate to find out information about the project not necessarily to contribute or their boss may have learned about their plan to participate and told them to stay away. The culture may be the result of failed past change efforts, a lacking clear link between desired changes and the need to improve perforrmance in the organization, highly political turf battles between leaders and direct contributors who play it safe by waiting for their bosses to show any support for a change in the organization.before “risking ”
    participation. You will need to find the “hot buttons” of the leaders who walk out of your meetings and determine what they stand to lose by supporting a change. In my expierence the reasons are commonly loss of control, undesired transparency in the results claimed by the leaders, more pressing prorities etc. As a change leader you have little to no influence over securing support for the change. That support can only come from the top leadership of the organization. If the senior leadership is fragmented and after your negotiation with the top leader the top leader remains unwilling to spend political capital in support of the change don’t waste your time attempting to align the senior leadership team and find a more rewarding environment.

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