Thursday, October 12, 2006

You Can't Hire Change

I blogged a little while ago about effecting cultural change at corporations. OK, somebody else blogged about it, I snitched it. I'm a "C" list blogger, whadya want?

Regardless, I was having a beer with a former co-worker of mine (let's call him T.), who got recruited by a local oil company that was looking to become more efficient, bring their corporate processes up to speed, and to drag their project management processes into reality. His first challenge was to the document management department. It's one of those places were the staff can give you a 20-year history of why things are done the way they're done. When asked why are they are doing it that way now, it doesn't make sense anymore - will repeat the 20-year-history of why things are done the way they're done. It's a variation of "that's the way we've always done it."

To me, that's a huge red flag. My immediate reaction will be ". . . and now we're going to change it."

Here's is biggest problem: he has no credibility, and he doesn't have the relationships within the company. So the staff have found ways (in the incredibly immature, passive-aggressive, crippling, self-preservational, and instinctually way that staff in disfunctinal companys do) to block, back-stab, and work-around him.

For cultural change to be credible it needs to be driven from the top be sustained over years . Otherwise it will be business as usual until this latest management fad passes, and people can go back to doing things the safe (for them) way they've always done it. Right now, T's fighting inertia from the bottom and indifference from the top. It's an oil company, they're making money hand over fist right now, so why should they change? That works until the price of oil drops or another company that's more mature comes along and starts eating their lunch.

If you manage a company you get one thing. If you lead a company, you get something else. Leading starts with the president, not from somebody a forward-looking vice-president hires.

So T's looking for new work. He promised them a year, and that's all they're likely to get. I'll be happy to get him back working for us.


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