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Effective Organizational Change is Inclusive

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Transforming an organization to be more productive shouldn’t just be a top-down effort. A blogger explained why increasing efficiency should include everyone.

The message came from April Weatherston at HNI. Let me just allow her blog post to speak for itself. As she wrote:

Leadership has a choice to make [regarding organizational change]. They can follow an exclusive model, where the executive team excludes all stakeholders except a select few to determine what needs to be changed. Or, they can embrace an inclusive model, which give will give stakeholders a voice – from mutual diagnosis to action planning and implementation.

In my view, Ms. Weatherson’s phrasing is perhaps unintentionally hilarious. It’s almost as if she is making a discovery: company leaders get to make a choice about excluding or including people. Wow! Ask people their opinion? What a concept!

consulting on having an idea

© Flickr user Julián Santacruz

In all seriousness, Weatherson is absolutely correct. Effective organizational change is inclusive. But I think she misses the mark when providing the rationale for this approach:

The big benefit to including the stakeholders in the process is employee motivation. Employees that are part of the change efforts from the very beginning are much more motivated to adopt and sustain any new behaviors required for change. Continued implementation of new processes and procedures are more likely to be successful and sustainable.

I mean… she isn’t wrong about this. Sure, it’s true that asking people for feedback will be motivating. This is the Hawthorne Effect that everyone has been talking about for sixty years now. However, the major advantage to talking with others is not merely a boost in morale. That shouldn’t be the number one goal here. Rather, the upside to being inclusive is the quality, diversity, and accuracy of information you get from people actually doing the work.

This is the kind of “aha” moment that almost deserves another stock photo. Guess who probably has some pretty interesting ideas about how to improve manufacturing procedures, how to change corporate IT systems or how to offer better customer service? That’s right, the stakeholders who do this stuff every day.

The real question about organizational change is one that April Weatherstone does not cover: if being inclusive is so effective, why do so many leaders fail to engage their staff?

The answer is much tougher than one can begin to answer in a single blog post, or really even a full presentation. Companies and non-profits across the world are built on authority and hierarchy. Decisions are made at the top and handed down. Changing a culture from one based on giving orders to one based on seeking feedback is no small feat. Many people worked their way to the top with the goal of being the one to make all the decisions. Many stakeholders who are lower on the traditional totem pole are used to being subservient. Yet, making this transformation is essential. Institutions that wish to survive must learn to truly engage their stakeholders.

Struggling to make this transition within your own organization? It can definitely be a difficult one. Start with small steps. When thinking about a minor change to a department, ask someone within the department for feedback. That shouldn’t sound like too revolutionary of an idea. Then, as you progress forward and have more and more decisions that need to be made, this culture of collaboration should become one that everyone not only accepts, but embraces.

And of course, if you’re still struggling, we’d love to help! Contact the business improvement consultants at AccelaWork. Sometimes an outsider’s point of view is what’s needed to find the best route to success.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


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