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Please Enlighten Me

by Carol Rozwell  |  February 23, 2017  |  1 Comment

I was having dinner the other evening in a dimly-lit restaurant. It was so dark, I had to use my flashlight app on the phone to read the menu. The little candle on the table didn’t throw enough light to illuminate the page. Another patron who entered the dining area from the restroom commented that she needed a seeing eye dog to find her table.

When the meal was served, I ate in the same dim light that made reading the menu difficult. The food was good but since one’s dining pleasure is enhanced by beautiful plating – I learned that on Iron Chef – I have to think my meal would have tasted better had I been able to see the food.

I bring this anecdote up not to whine, to illustrate a point. When people are kept in the dark about anything that personally affects them, it is disconcerting and dampens their enthusiasm for the task at hand.

Here’s a case in point from a recent client inquiry.images

The company decided to make a major process change in the way customer-facing employees work. The workflow changed as did the metrics by which each person’s success was measured. The problem is that the leadership got only part of the organizational change formula correct. They created a communication plan that explained the “what” was about to change but forgot to explain the “why” and totally missed the WIIFM.

When the change went into effect and employees were expected to change how they worked the adoption was, not surprisingly, mediocre. So the leadership created a “louder” communique that again insisted that employees change how they work. Compliance got somewhat better but it was grudging compliance. Employees began to talk among themselves about how much they disliked the arbitrary change to the work practices that replaced practices they had honed over the years.

Eventually, leadership understood that they missed the opportunity to explain why the change was necessary and how it would benefit the customers and the employees themselves. Because the success criteria changed, different things were being measured. But that wasn’t clear to the employees in the beginning of the change rollout.

And this brings us to the opening anecdote about keeping people in the dark on change. We’ll have to wait to see whether the company’s changes will have the desired impact on customers. What we do know is that much of the consternation employees felt could have been lessened if they had more information on “why” to accompany the “what” from the beginning. It likely would have improved adoption of the new process and eliminated the need to do “back-track” communication.

So if you’re expecting people to like change, enlighten them on the “what” and don’t forget the “why” and WIIFM.

Category: change-management  social-networks  

Tags: change-management  digital-workplace  leadership  organizational-change  social-networks  socially-centered-leadership  

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Digital Workplace team. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Please Enlighten Me


  1. Barry Curry says:

    Wonderful article with great insight. I’m seeing this scenario play out time and time again.



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