Organizational Transformation -War of Passion & Skepticism!
As put forward by the theory ‘Diffusion of Innovation’, any product or service goes through a traditional bell curve for adoption. Even large-scale enterprise level transformations go through the same transformation bell curve for adoption.
Once the 2.5% ‘Innovators’ create a transformation/change initiative, 13.5% ‘Early Adopters’ will start adopting it enthusiastically and will be torch bearers. Then follow the population group which weighs carefully but adopts quickly called the ‘Early Majority’ making up 34%.
At the apex of the curve are the 34% ‘Late Majority’ who adopts after 50% of the population has realized the value. Then comes the last category 16% ‘Laggards’ who are the pessimists or cynics who won’t adopt till the end and will resist to all possible extent but eventually will adopt the change.
The segments which we need to watch out for are the -
- Early Adopters
Why ‘Early Adopters’? — They are the good guys. They immediately adapt to change and follow through with the Transformation. They are very much needed for any organization which intend to do large scale transformation. Early Adopters help carve out the success/failure of any transformation change. They help in experimenting and piloting the change. If an organization has no ‘Early Adopters’ group, any change will suffer in the hands of doubters and reluctant people. But too much enthusiasm will also dive a change into unchecked destruction mode with no questioning and no change in strategy. Perspective gets lost in Passion.
That’s where we need ‘Laggards’ — the pessimists. They are the bad guys, why we need them? We need them to question our change and drive retrospection. We need Laggards to keep a balance and bring in perspective. But too much criticism will destroy passion. Sometimes, laggards get too stuck in their own world, they become cynics and refuse to look at the larger picture. They resist till the end, even while reluctantly adopting the change they resist throughout the journey.
In large organizations, these segments of people do not exist separately as groups. Unfortunately, all the categories exist in all levels and in all teams.
If an organization has the right balance of the change adoption segments in all levels, then change becomes organic and moves at the right pace.
The main problem happens when an organization has a large percentage of ‘Laggards’ and there is no check on the ‘Laggards’. When Laggards start expressing their persistent resistance and gets critical of the change, then negativity start spreading across the organization impacting the change initiative. The teams however enthusiastic they are, will succumb to the cynical mind of the laggards.
The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people. — John P. Kotter on Organizational Change Management
Change agents spend considerable amount of time in changing or convincing ‘Laggards’. Laggards can bring down the morale of the team adversely. It is very important that the senior leadership team keep a check and balance between ‘Early Adopters’ and ‘Laggards’ in their organizations.
When organizations invest in multi-million-dollar Enterprise change initiatives, they must be careful in executing it to reap the benefits. Change isn’t easy and everybody handles change differently. Adopting change passionately or resisting change has its own positive and negative cascading effects.
People need to be trained on Emotional Resilience and taught to keep Cognitive biases in check. Organizations need to systematically identify laggards and coach them and in worst cases reprimand them. Many organizations follow strict rules while executing transformations, since they know the large penalty they will have to pay if the initiatives fail.
“Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin — Thomas Huxley”
The war between Passion and Skepticism will always exist and we need both Early Adopters and Laggards. Both personalities should exist within us and in an organization but at a balance and need to be kept in check.