Friday, July 20, 2012

The secret sauce of change management

A long time ago, in a bureaucracy far far away a policy wonk named Nick was tasked with creating a wiki dashboard that showed - in real time - what everyone across the policy sector had on their plate.

The idea was to help the sector coordinate its business better and encourage a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach to information sharing.

"hard as nails" by PixelPlacebo
Nick was still relatively new to the department and took to his task with great rigour.

He built a series of nested (bilingual and accessible!) wiki templates so each person would only ever have to edit their own page.

He focused tested the design with users, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

He incorporated keeping the dashboard up to date into the Human Resources Action Plan. He arranged for training on how to use the software.

And if memory serves, he even managed to get the project into a senior manager's performance agreement.

After about 6 months of work, despite all of the measures outlined above, the initiative was dead in the water.

The reason it didn't work was that populating the template was largely seen as a duplication of work by people in the department who were already required to fill provide the same information in their quarterly reports.

Staff pushed back on the duplication and returned to their old ways, feeding the machine vertically rather than sharing horizontally.

Eventually Nick abandoned his efforts and scuttled the pages.

The lesson ...

We often get so caught up in nurturing change that we forget that we must also fend off competition that could undermine its viability; that the real secret sauce to change isn't seeding the new ideas, but rather killing the existing lines of business that compete with them.

Originally published by Nick Charney at
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