26 February 2010

Change comes through people - Part 3

We are continuing to revisit the Key Points raised in the Webinar on “Emotional Intelligence.”

Middle managers need to implement change while managing their employees’ emotions – anxiety, resistance and inappropriate behavior

Notice the tone of this statement and the mandate it sets for middle managers: middle managers need to implement change while managing their employees’ emotions. Here are a couple of questions I raised with the presenters during the Webinar:
1.       How much time, energy and money should a company spend in “emotion management”?

2.       At what point should executives stop and re-think their plans when their top-down actions raise anxiety and resistance from middle management and below to such a level that additional resources must be deployed just to “manage emotions”?
This statement amply demonstrates just how out-of-touch executives and managers in some organizations must be with the rest of their enterprise – i.e., middle management and below on the organization chart. Not only so, but it also shows that these same executives have no idea the damage that their distance from the organization’s “heartbeat” is likely to cause. And, I am not talking about damage to the “peons’ egos or sense of self-worth.” I mean sincerely the damage that is done to their enterprise in measurable terms with which CEOs and CFOs should be concerned – namely, lost Throughput and profits.
Interestingly, when I raised the question regarding when executives should stop and re-think their plans, the presenters of the Webinar pretty much told me that in the face of ego-driven ERP, once the enterprise gets far enough down the traditional ERP path to start raising anxiety and resistance from “the masses,” there is no turning back. It is the rare, rare exception that executive management would dare to stop and rethink the project underway.
This is a sad state of affairs and emphasizes just why traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Projects have such a lousy success rate when it comes to delivering return-on-investment.

Middle managers face the challenge of grasping a change they did not design and negotiating the details with others who are equally removed from strategic decision-making

This seems to get more ridiculous the further we drill-down on the details, doesn’t it? This statement reminds me of a combat situation. Here’s the scenario (in metaphor):
The generals (executive management) have come up with a battle plan – apparently with little or no consultation with the boots on the ground. The generals, in their wisdom, have passed this battle plan down from “on high” and told the lieutenants (middle management) in the field just how they are going to “take that hill.” The lieutenants – many of them being 90-day wonders, fresh out of college and with little practical experience – are now tasked with convincing chief master sergeants, master sergeants, gunnery sergeants and ground troops – some of whom have 15, 20 or even 30 years of “boots on the ground” experience that the plan promulgated by the generals is a good plan and ought to be carried out.
The problem is, the lieutenants do not necessarily understand all of the implications of the plan for those who must carry the weapons and bring the plan to success. They do not comprehend what it takes in day-in, day-out hand-to-hand combat to actually “take the hill.”
Nevertheless, it is the lieutenants’ job to “sell” the plan and “negotiate the details” with the seasoned front-line personnel who actually know the risks that they will be taking.
I think you get the picture. Is it any wonder that a firm operating in this way might experience some problems with their traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Project? Is it any wonder that fewer than half the firms undertaking efforts like this achieve any measurable net benefit from their traditional ERP effort?
No, of course there is no wonder.

Complexity rises for middle managers of change as work demands are modified and multiply, thus creating conflicts

This is a traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Project – after all. Executives have decided to tear the guts out of the entire organization and transplant new technological “guts” in the name of “improvement” that the executives themselves have likely not quantified. To say that “Hope is not a strategy” is an understatement at this point.
Executives have, more likely than not, promulgated a technology “strategy” based on little more than “hope” and the so-called “promises” of the vendors or resellers. Then, these same executives have largely left execution in the hands of lieutenants (see above) and third-parties (e.g., the vendors, resellers and consultants). Then, by some inexplicable stroke of magic executive management expects improved profits to be the result at the other end of this journey. Why else would you spend millions of dollars to disrupt virtually every operation in your enterprise virtually simultaneously and continuously for upwards of 18 months?
Of course “work demands are modified.” A “strategy” (falsely so-called) has been set forward and most of middle management have no idea what that strategy will actually mean for the “boots on the ground.” (See metaphor in previous section.) In this case, it is not “the enemy” forcing a change in plans. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Lack of clarity renders new demands uncertain and frequently misunderstood; without clear understanding, managers can be seen as taking wrong actions or no action at all

Given our discussions up to this point, does anyone have an difficulty in understanding just why there might be “lack of clarity” in the traditional ERP – Everything Replacement Project?
Maybe it is because, while it is necessary to understand the operation of your organization as a whole – that is, as an integrated “system” – it is not possible to “focus” on the whole organization all at once.
If executives ask themselves the question, “What needs to change in order for our company to start making more money tomorrow than we are making today?” How likely is it that the answer that would come to mind would be, “Everything!”?
My guess is that the answer would never be everything! Typically, the number of things that need to change to begin making more money tomorrow is very small – say, fewer than a half-dozen. And, even if there are a half-dozen, they need not all be undertaken at once. Then, add to that, the fact that among those half-dozen things that need to change, it may probably be found that half or fewer of those things actually require a change in technologies to support the change.
Yet, purveyors of traditional ERP- Everything Replacement Projects will try to convince executives that what needs to change is everything – and then the company will make more money. Unfortunately, many executives are all too willing to believe this is actually “the solution” of which they have always dreamed. “Just pour it in and everything will run smoother, faster, longer and we’ll get better mileage, too.”


As W. Edwards Deming said, “You do not install knowledge,” and “Knowledge comes from theory.” These executives go far afield from actually helping their organizations improve because they lack a valid “theory” about how their “system” – their enterprise – actually functions in carrying out the customer-to-cash chain of inter-dependent functions and events.
Virtually all of what they need to know lies resident within their own organization in what I call “tribal knowledge.” But such executives as would seek to manage their employees’ emotions through “Emotional Intelligence” – read: manipulation – will never reap the benefit of unlocking the treasure of “tribal knowledge,” because, it seems, this knowledge comes from “the working class” and it is beneath their dignity to learn from “the man that runs the machine.”
It is the executives with such a mind that are the losers as a result. But their employees lose, too. Firms under such management will never be as profitable or durable as they otherwise might be. Employees cannot be paid as much, because profits are too low. Some employees will lose their jobs because the company cannot compete.
This is all too senseless.
©2010 Richard D. Cushing

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