There are always people who ‘don’t get it’, are against cultural change efforts, do not support a programme, torpedo it, or are simply a toxic of some sort. Some of them may be senior people with senior bonuses, or at the very top, or a bit below, or combinations.
The traditional thinking says: time out! There is nothing I can do because if the top doesn’t get it, nobody will. Let’s spend the time trying to convince the top, and the next down top, and the next next, that this is good. Only then, we can change … the company/the world/anything. Which is a good explanation of why we are not that good at changing …the company/the world/anything.
Rational PowerPoint presentations to the top, led by well intentioned champions of the idea, internal and external consultants, trying to explain why ‘this is what we need’. The tribunal (there is no other way to describe that Executive Committee) pushes back with things such as: give us examples, tell us something concrete, concrete, concrete, very concrete, and what exactly is going to happen on Wednesday 23rd in the afternoon.
Let’s assume here that you have the extraordinary luck of a visionary leader who says: let’s do it! When can we start?! So you do. But you still have the problem of many others who ‘don’t get it’.
If revolutions were to start when everybody is convinced that the revolution is needed, including the ones who could, or should, start a revolution or could torpedo it, no revolution would have ever taken place.
The aim of a large scale behavioural and cultural change (as we do in Viral Change™) is not to fight these people, disable them, argue with them, convince them, detoxify them or have a long and rational discussion to rehabilitate them. The goal is to reach a threshold of critical mass of engaged, committed, positive and forward looking people, who are actively making changes, that makes the other irrelevant.
It’s a question of critical mass, not seniority or hierarchical power. When things are moving, changes take place, differences are noticed, the Opposition starts to fragment into different groups. One, the ones who continue to oppose and can’t handle it. They either leave or have gastric ulcers. Two, the ones who can see and hear and become supporters. Three, the chronically neutral. By the way, a subgroup of Two are the ones who say, ‘I have always believed that this was the right thing to do’, even if they were the ones ready to kill you. This beautiful tribe deserves a big, big, big smile, followed by a ‘thanks for your continuous support, sir’.
What if there is still a fierce opposition at the top? Many years of organizational consulting with companies across the world, many, many Viral Change™ programmes later, many years of living on both sides of the fence of leadership, have found me the perfect formula, which I am happy to share with you. Here it is. If you are in a company, as an employee, manager, external consultant of an organizational type of some sort, where the top, or quasi top ‘don’t get it’, are against cultural change efforts, do not support a programme, torpedo it, or are simply a toxic of some sort, with some of them being senior people with senior bonuses, at the very top, or a bit below, or combinations, there is one clear and powerful, strategy: leave.
PS. If you are a consultant, don’t forget to give them the telephone number of your competitors.