PDM and Change Management


Three Tools of Change

The three tools of change - communication, learning and reward systems - are often ignored in a PDM implementation, but without them, change is unlikely to succeed. Look at them in a general context of change, remembering that change is driven by a very small percentage of the people in the organization. Most people are going to have change thrust upon them - they will be 'the targets of change', 'the victims of change', and 'the people to be changed'. Don't forget that most of these people will be quite happy with the current state of things. They may complain a lot about the current state, and about their managers and colleagues, but they do accept the current state and live with it. Someone, however, would like to change this stable, generally accepted environment. Even where you're sitting, you can almost hear the screams of the potential victims of change.

Among themselves they'll be saying things like:-

'Why should we change?'

'This company has made us do the same thing for the last 20 years and now it asks us to change because apparently that was the wrong thing to do. After 20 years of doing it one way, how can you expect us to change and do it another way?'

'Every few years there's a great new idea from Corporate and we're all supposed to change - one year it was quality circles, then it was Customer Focus. After a few months, these programs always faded away, and everything went back to normal. Except the people who participated very visibly were usually in deep trouble because someone had to take the blame. So why should we put our head on the block?'

'They took all the decisions. Why should we suffer now?'

To overcome the quite legitimate fears and concerns underlying this type of question it's important to communicate what is changing and why. It's important to give people the opportunity to learn new skills, and it's important to change the reward system so that people can see that changed behavior will be rewarded and unchanged behavior won't. Let's look at these three subjects one by one.

It's important to communicate to people why change is needed. Probably the message will be part stick and part carrot - partly describing the dangers of staying in the current 'as-is' state, and partly showing the advantages of moving to the future 'to-be' state. The communication needs to show what the future state will look like, how it will be reached, and what things will look like along the way. It needs to show that the process of change has been clearly thought out, is being led and is under control.

However, even if the above messages are well communicated and well received, it doesn't follow that anyone is going to change. People may have done a good job in the past, but that job is going to change in the future - and are they able to do the new job? Do they know how to do their new job? Probably not, so they have to be given the opportunity to learn new skills, new tools, new behavior and new roles.

However, even if the message is well communicated and well received, and people are given the opportunity to learn so they can behave differently in the new environment, it doesn't follow that anyone is going to change their behavior. First, they'll look to see on what basis the carrots and gold stars are going to be distributed. If they see that the rewards are going to be handed out the way they always were - then they're going to behave the way they always did - and they're not going to change.

So, communication is good and necessary, but it's not enough. Communication and learning are good and necessary, but they're not enough. Communication, learning and new reward systems are all needed.

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Page last modified on March 16, 2000
Copyright 1999, 2000 by John Stark