When process non-compliance is a failure of management (instead of change management)

You’ve just rolled out a significant change for your organization only to realize that in the real world if you build it, they may not always come.

There is very little as frustrating as finding that there is not universal compliance with the change being deployed.

Where did you go wrong?  You mentally check off the best practices that were followed:

  • Trying to “walk a mile in the shoes” of the affected staff
  • Communicating throughout the change life cycle
  • Trying to address the “what’s in it for me” factor through your change design and communications
  • Actively soliciting and incorporating feedback in refinements to the change
  • Involving peers of the affected staff in the change decision making

The reality is that nearly any organizational process change will not enjoy 100% success.  Regardless of how much coaching, convincing, communicating, cajoling or threatening you do, once the masses have been converted over to the new way of doing things there are always going to be a few stubborn Luddites who refuse to play ball.  The rationale or logic behind this resistance may be irrelevant – you may simply have to accept that you will not be able to win everyone over.

With some change, a lack of total compliance is merely an annoyance, but for other types of changes it can eventually cause the failure of an initiative.

A key contributor could be a failure of management – unfortunately, even in this economy, many managers feel that their job is to be “everyone’s buddy”.  This translates into their unwillingness or inability to hold their staff accountable for work activities and results.  In the case of process compliance, such behavior can be infectious similar to the Broken Window theory – previously compliant staff begin to think “if they can get away with not following the new procedures, why should I?”

When it comes to change, the best advice may be the wisdom of Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Process Peeves | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “When process non-compliance is a failure of management (instead of change management)

  1. mushcado


    Yes, the needs of the many do indeed outweigh the needs of the few in many cases. Sometimes we need to look carefully at how some process changes really do impact the day to day activities of key employees. Quite often it’s a case of ‘why do I need to change what I’m doing when what I already do works?’. This isn’t to say that everyone should be consulted over each and every change but effort must be put into explaining why changes need to take place as it’s all too easy for individuals not to conform and get away with it for weeks and months before anyone realizes. By that time, of course, the new process has been classed as a failure and yet another one has been created to ‘fix the problem’!



  2. kbondale

    Hi Paul –

    I absolutely agree – involving representative staff from each role affected is a good way to ensure that the process changes are really necessary and will not be an unnecessary burden.

    Thanks for the feedback!



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