In my last post, I focused on using positive reinforcement, rewards and recognition to shape the appropriate behavior in a social business transformation (read more here). In more colloquial terms, this approach is known as “the Carrot” from the idiom “The Carrot and the Stick.” In other recent posts, I discussed the importance of the Change Curve and ways to move employees along it more quickly.
What I haven’t covered so far is “The Stick,” which can be either negative reinforcement and/or a threat of punishment. In some circumstances, executives and managers begin to implement “The Stick” when they don’t see the results they’re getting at the desired pace or when they feel under pressure to deliver better results faster.
This “Stick” could take the form of setting targets for a certain behavior (e.g. tool usage), which, in turn requires measurement of the usage. Depending upon how these targets are communicated and managed, this feeling of being measured (aka the “Big Brother effect) can generate a negative climate in the employee population. Often employees don’t understand why targets are being introduced, and feel that it’s yet another thing to add pressure to their already full plates. The introduction of targets, without a reward, contest, or element of fun attached to it, will likely lead to an attitude of “Compliance,” and not one of “Commitment” as seen on the Change Curve.
Other forms of “The Stick” include public shaming, scolding and reprimanding employees, threatening employees that they could lose their jobs or lose some kind of privilege, a component of pay (e.g. a bonus), and the list goes on. Some people rely on “The Stick” as their “go to” motivation tactic. It’s in their comfort zone, and this approach can be a faster way to get a reaction out of your employees, though not necessarily an enduring change to their behavior.
My strong belief is that in a well-structured, well-planned, and well-managed change program, everyone should be glowing orange from all the Carrots around them.
However, life and business don’t always go as expected and at times, one must introduce a Stick. In such a situation, these “Sticks” must be carefully planned and managed as well, to maintain high employee morale and keep your champions enthusiastic and committed.
Before implementing a “Stick,” I encourage you to think through the following questions:
- What problem are we trying to solve? (e.g. speed of adoption, low levels of adoption or usage of specific tools, resistance to change, eradicate specific undesirable behaviors)
- Are our expectations for change reasonable (e.g. pace, tool usage, etc)? Have we benchmarked against other parts of our company or similar organizations in our industry that have undergone a major change program?
- Have we investigated and identified the root causes for problem x, y, or z?
- Have we developed action plans to address them?
- Have we started to implement these plans, and what are the results so far?
- Have we allocated enough time to see if our action plans are effective before taking another corrective action?
I also suggest that you revisit and evaluate the structure of your original organizational change plan. It’s possible that some areas need to be re-prioritized, redesigned, or reassigned.
Here are common root causes to explore.
- Have we communicated the case for change effectively? Do all of the employees at all levels in all geographies understand the desired behavior change and why it’s important?
- Is there appropriate organizational alignment? Have these changes been incorporated into their job definitions, performance targets, measurement systems, and reward systems?
- Have these new systems been explained to both employees and their managers?
- Is the current training content and delivery mechanism effective?
- What is the communications plan? Are employees receiving the right information at the appropriate times? Or is the information confusing, direction changing frequently, or too much coming at them at once?
- Are executives cascading the communications through their management chain?
- Is the management chain “walking the talk” or sending mixed messages to their employees?
- Is there a plan to address resistance?
I hope these questions provide a helpful framework to keep your Social Business change program moving in a positive, rewarding way, one filled with lots of “Carrots” and very few “Sticks.”
I welcome your comments and suggestions from your experiences. Please comment here or tweet me @jennifer_dubow.
Image: Carrot And Stock