Nothing kills the momentum of a new initiative like the folkloric stories of past failed attempts that circulate whenever a leadership team attempts to unveil a transformative vision. This collective memory—usually circulated in hushed, cynical tones behind the scenes—that the organization has of similar initiatives that were introduced with enthusiasm, only to fail to produce any real results in the past, is exactly what ensures that history will repeat itself again. Whether we have labeled an initiative the “program of the month” as an excuse for not getting on board or we have heard the phrase from those who are not as enthusiastic as we are about what we are about to embark on, we know that it could turn into a self-fulling prophecy and slow down progress unless we clarify our messaging.
In today’s short post, I’d like to share 5 suggestions to prevent or effectively address the perception that a genuine attempt to make improvements is “just another one of those programs of the month that will never work!”
1. Acknowledge the mistakes and failures of the past – Don’t try to pretend that the history that is causing people to have a negative perception doesn’t exist. Admit to the mistakes of the past and declare your commitment to not making the same mistakes again. By doing so, you acknowledge that you are aware of their concerns, you know what went wrong last time, and you know what to avoid this time.
2. Ask for support – Don’t go around promising people this won’t be the program of the month, because that’s not up to you! If the team, collectively, treats it as such and allows it to fail by not participating, then it will end up being a program of month regardless. Instead, ask them to help you ensure that it won’t be the program of the month by voicing their concerns, requesting the information they need to be fully committed, and participating to the utmost. Remind them that they have a part in deciding whether the initiative will cause a genuine transformation or whether it will fall to the wayside.
3. Don’t package common sense as something foreign and fancy – If what you are rolling out is just a slightly different version of what is already in place, or if you are coming up with a new program that builds on something that the organization is already familiar with, don’t give it a fancy label that will cause people to question its legitimacy. While packaging and branding an initiative is important in raising awareness and bringing attention to it, the downside is that people might view it as something foreign or weird, and as a result, simply ignore it. On several occasions I have advised clients to not package their organizational improvement efforts as High Performance Organization (HPO) and instead, just begin to build the principles into the way the organization does its work. Remember, the principles and behavior is what’s important, not the label they are given.
4. Don’t promise more than you can deliver – Set a stretching vision but be clear about milestones and celebrate the small wins along to way. This helps demonstrate along the way that the work is being done and results are beginning to show up. The key is to give the early adopters enough ammunition to defuse the resistance and win over the 70% in the middle who are trying to figure out if they should follow their lead.
5. Put a transparent review process in place – The best way to get out of arguing about whether the initiative is the program of the month or not is to look at the progress and results. As they say, the greatest obstacle to progress is often the perception that no progress is being made. Put a robust and transparent review process in place that is completed by the people who are closest to the work and widely publicized in the organization, such that everybody can see what is going well and what is not and communicate what the plans are to close the gaps.
While none of these steps will produce extraordinary results by themselves, if you consistently take the above steps in concert with each other, you will increase your chances of rapidly gaining support for your initiative and involving more people in making sure that it won’t be the “program of the month!”
If you’d like to learn more about how to sustainably shift the culture and results of your organization, check out my free ebook, “5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick.”
About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.
As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!
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