Organizational Change, Training and Development, and “motivation

Conventional organizational change, which typically encompasses training and development, and ‘motivation’, mostly fails.


Are the people stupid? Can they not see the need for change? Do they not realise that if the organization cannot make these changes then we will become uncompetitive. We will lose market share. There will be job cuts. We will eventually go out of business. Can they not see it?

Actually probably not. Or more precisely, your people look at things in a different way.

Bosses and organizations still tend to think that people whom are managed and employed and paid to do a job should do what they’re told to do. We are conditioned from an early age to believe that the way to teach and train, and to motivate people towards changing what they do, is to tell them, or persuade them. From our experiences at school we are conditioned to believe that skills, knowledge, and expectations are imposed on or ‘put into’ people by teachers, and later, by managers and bosses in the workplace.

But just because the boss says so, doesn’t make it so. People today have a different perspective. And when you think about it, they’re bound to.

Imposing new skills and change on people doesn’t work because:

It assumes that people’s personal aims and wishes and needs are completely aligned with those of the organization, or that there is no need for such alignment, and
It assumes that people want, and can assimilate into their lives, given all their other priorities, the type of development or change that the organization deems appropriate for them.

Instead, organizations, managers, bosses and business owners would do better to think first about exploring ways to align the aims of the business with the needs – total life needs – of their people. Most people who go to work are under no illusion that their main purpose is to do what their manager says, so that the organization can at the end of the year pay outrageously high rewards to greedy directors, and a big fat dividend to the shareholders.

We (the workers) work so that other more gifted or fortunate or aggressive people can profit because of our efforts.

And god help you if you are running a management buyout company, intent on floating or selling out in the next two-to-five years, making the MBO equity-holders millionaires, and leaving the employees, on whose backs these scandalous gains have been made, up the creek without a paddle, at the mercy of the new owners.

How on earth do you expect decent hardworking people to align with those aims?

It’s time for a radical re-think, before we all disappear up our own backsides…

fact one:

People will never align with bad aims. Executive greed, exploitation, environmental damage, inequality, betrayal, false promises are transparent for all decent folk to see:

“Oh you want me to do this training, and adjust to your changes, so I can make more money for you and the parasites who feed off this corporation? Sorry, no can do. I’ve got my own life to lead thanks very much..”

And that’s if you are lucky. Most staff will simply nod and smile demurely as if in servile acceptance. If they still wore caps they’d doff them.

And then nothing happens. Of course nothing happens. The people can’t be bothered.

“… if the directors are too arrogant and stupid to understand why, then why should we tell them?..”

Re-assess and re-align your organization’s aims, beliefs, integrity – all of it – with your people’s. Then they might begin to be interested in helping with new skills and change, etc.

fact two:

People can’t just drop everything and ‘change’, or learn new skills, just because you say so. Even if they want to change and learn new skills, they have a whole range of issues that keep them fully occupied for most of their waking hours – which were dumped on them by the organization in the first place.

“So you want me to attend this training course, so you can earn more (etc, etc), and when I come back from two days away in some rotten hotel my personal pile of meaningless jobs will just have magically disappeared will it? And when I come to try to implement these new skills and make all these new things happen, everyone will be completely in step will they? Pull the other one.. Again, no can do..”

The reason why consulting with people is rather a good idea is that it saves you from yourself and your own wrong assumptions. Consulting with people does not mean that you hand over the organization to them – they wouldn’t want the corporation if you paid them anyway. No, consulting with people gives you and them a chance to understand the implications and feasibility of what you think needs doing. And aside from this, consulting with people, and helping them to see things from both sides generally throws up some very good ideas for doing things better than you could have dreamt of by yourself. It helps you to see from both sides too.

fact three:

Organizations commonly say they don’t have time to re-assess and re-align their aims and values, etc., or don’t have time to consult with people properly, because the organization is on the edge of a crisis.

Well who’s fault is that? Organizations get into crisis because they ignore facts one and two. Ignoring these facts again will only deepen the crisis.

Crisis is no excuse for compromising integrity. Crisis is the best reason to re-align your aims and consult with people. Crisis is wake-up and change the organization and its purpose – not change the people. When an organization is in crisis, the people are almost always okay – it’ll be the organizational purpose and aims that stink.

So, whatever way you look at organizational change, you are kidding yourself if you think you can come up with a plan for change and then simply tell or persuade your people to implement it.

Instead, start by looking at your organization’s aims and values and purposes. What does your organization actually seek to do? Whom does your organization benefit? And whom does it exploit? Who are the winners, and who are the losers? Does your organization have real integrity? Are you proud of the consequences and implications of what your organization does? Will you be remembered for the good that you did – in the widest possible sense of doing good – while you were in charge and in your position of responsibility?

And what do your people say to themselves about the way you are managing change?

Ask them.

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