Will Your Company Really Change in 2011?

Q.  Our management team has been trying to get the Executive Management and Private Owners of our manufacturing company to make positive changes to grow the company, achieve a larger market share and make this an all around better place to work.  But although “they” say “they” want change, nothing ever happens.  We’ve even had a consultant work with us for a short time and he echoed everything we’ve been saying.  Change begins then hits a brick wall and we’re back to business as usual.  Is this the way it is in all privately owned companies?
WK, Galveston, TX

A:  To begin with, let me assure you that you and your current employer are not in a club by yourselves.  Not only does this scenario occur in the private sector but in large corporations and governmental agencies as well.  Several examples come to mind but here are two that should easily demonstrate this to you.

1.     Two years ago, an old friend of mine interviewed for the position of Director of Economic Development for what was once a very historic and popular Midwest City with a population of 20,000. The call for candidates went out in January, 2008.  They interviewed all four of four candidates that applied.  My friend is hands down the most qualified and he was told at the interview by the President of the Chamber of Commerce, “…they hoped to have a decision by the 1st of June!”

My friend, in a very professional manner, explained to them the errors of dragging this out so long and he asked them; “….Are you REALLY ready to make the changes that we have discussed?”  The room was silent for a bit and then they did finally decide that he was right and will make that decision next week.  The fear of the “newbie’s” on the hiring committee is the “old-timers” will want to go with someone from the good old boy network and it will be business as usual.  The real end of this story is....."they were not ready for change" and today they are in a slightly worse position than they were in January 2008.  How sad.

There is obviously a great deal more to the story, but it shows that even a city that is losing their young people, businesses moving out of town, no new growth, virtually no inquiries of companies wanting to move there and STILL they willing to procrastinate because the fear of reality has set in.  They procrastinate because change for some brings fear.  But for others it also demonstrates failure.  “If the new guy does good, then I guess it shows that we didn’t do so good, so we are failures!”  Instead of acting all grown up about it, and realizing that they took the city as far as they can, now it’s time for someone else to take the reins and go forward before the city becomes a ghost town.  This analogy plays out in private sectors as well.

2.    I know a gentleman who was hired by a large and formidable manufacturing company and when he was introduced to the entire company by the president, he was called their “change agent” and strongly endorsed by management team.  He was full of ideas, concepts, suggestions, observations and improvements and he diligently began the work at hand.  Most of the staff bought into the changes and improvements and progress seemed to be happening.  Privately employees praised his work but the praises were filled with trepidation.

Once he reached the level of the entrenched upper management, the same upper management who were involved in the interview process and approved his hiring, the process began to drastically change.  Change was okay for the other departments, but not for “mine” became the mantra of the day.  Attitudes began to change, projects were undermined, secret meetings with the owners, cooperation stopped and so did the process.  Nobody discussed their fears or concerns with the “change agent”, just continued on their own personal agenda’s to make certain no change came to their departments.

One day the president came in and said to the “change agent”, I appreciate the work you’ve done here, but it’s causing too much grief with my “entrenched” (not his word but mine) people.  No explanation, no discussion, but the president wanted the “entrenched” people (and probably himself) to feel safe, so it was back to business as usual.  The ride was over.  How sad.  And today, they are still in business but growth is not to the level that it could be.  Retention  and recruitment issues remain and so do the entrenched favorites.

Now this is just two examples of executives, managers and owners giving lip service to wanting change and when the reality hits, the insecurity of their lives and positions, the fear in their inner beings and the intrinsic lack of confidence of themselves and what they have built, takes over and they can’t bring themselves to innovate or hand over control. 

Change is not easy but it is CRITICALLY IMPERATIVE for survival in 2011.  Recruitment of quality employees is becoming more difficult, retention of employees is an everyday process, talk of recession and changes in the world are in the air and affect all of us. The owners and managers in control of any given company MUST understand the value of change as it relates to the organization and themselves.   They MUST put aside the egotisms, greed and paranoid thinking OR it will be business as usual?  And in my humble opinion.....it will be sad.

If I can help you grow your company, improve your revenues, stabilize your retention of employees, customers or vendors and/or assist with recruitment, please reach out to me.  Put your egotism aside....I can help.

George F. Mancuso
Client Growth Consultants
Grinnell, IA

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