There is a German proverb that states that when the time comes to empty the pond, one should not first consult the frogs. But is it really naïve to involve the frogs? In many situations, I am not so sure.
What we practice every day at Synthetron follows a different philosophy. Online-discussions in a crowdsourcing-format suggest that whoever feels authenticallly involved will be ready to face changes more easily. For sure, we always meet opposition. Our main findings, however, are concerned with critical success factors making it possible even for sceptics to support the next steps in a change process.
In our practice we have learned to distrust the typical yes/no results of a survey. Instead, we try to look more deeply, into the ‘what’ and ‘how’, while guaranteeing full anonymity for the participants. This leads to honest feedback helping to trigger change:
- If the feedback focuses on functional aspects, it is important to provide more information with regard to content.
- If the concern is related to limited resources, missing capabilities or tight schedules, it is helpful to address priorities and to give moral support.
- Emotional reasoning is a great challenge. Some concerns might seem to be coming from misinformation, but sometimes they indicate utter refusal. The critical success factors have to be identified to help facilitate collaboration and improve corporate culture. Meetings with the parties involved, focusing on clarifying and settling areas of friction, are indispensable for achieving concrete actions.
More than 500 online-discussions in our Synthetron format indicate three almost universal pre-conditions for the change readiness of a focus group:
- Processes should not be too complex or self-redundant, nor should they lack flexibility.
- New processes have to be communicated diligently.
- Managers should plan how to handle new processes in detail and ensure support by role modelling.
To put it provocatively: do not trust the moderate applause of a management meeting. Instead, have a close look behind the scenes at how the frogs are feeling. If you detect a mindset of “They surely don’t mean me” or “If we wait and see, the budgets will soon be reduced again”, it’s a good option to involve the frogs and listen to them.