Start With a Fanfare?

A fairly accepted way to start a change programme is to announce it, or further to parade it with a big fanfare. “We are starting a new programme!!” Townhalls are held, emails sent and managers and staff briefed. Sometimes mugs and T-shirts are printed too. But I am on the cusp of wondering if that is all a good idea. I read Philip Crosby’s book, “Quality is Free” a few years ago. I can remember two things from it. First, that doing things well is cheaper than doing things badly, and I agree with this. The second is that you must have a big unveiling of your new way. But the thing that struck me as odd was that he said – and I hope I remember it right – was that if it doesn’t quite go as expected, the thing to do was to have another fanfare and gee everyone up again and keep doing that until it works. But if something is not working why would you keep trying it over and over?

The thing is anything that you can “start” you can “stop”. So if you announce a new programme people can further down the line, decide that they don’t want to do that any more and revert. So I am wondering if it might not be better not to announce a new programme. Might it be better to just start doing something different without a big to-do? How might that look?

It would have to start with the top. It would come from a Cheif Executive or equivalent. They would start to ask their staff to look at some different things, get some different data, think about things in a different way. They wouldn’t be saying that Cheify has a new fad, instead they would simply be asked to go and try a couple of things. These things would be a priority, certainly and there would be no secret about what was happening, no subterfuge. Put simply the top officers would be given ‘things to do’ to help them see that there might be a better way. Thus, because there is no fanfare, there is nothing for staff to push back on. At first they might not see that the new things they are looking at are ground breaking, but the subtlty of the design of the tasks set are where this approach would live or die.

To clarify, I have not tried this approach yet, but I would look to do so. Instinctually I feel that if you are trying to change the way people think and thus work and do that in a way that sticks, you need to introduce it in a natural way, as part of the work. Not artificially in a big kick-off announcement.

Good luck with your programmes and I will try and report back if I can persuade someone to try this with me.



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  1. Riegholt -

    I couldn't agree more with you !

    We started our lean programme with as little fanfare as possible. Almost concurrently another programme was started from the top witrh loads of fanfare

    I'm convinced that our approach is changing behaviour of coworkers more effectively.