The Psychology of Records Management: Rules of the Road for Cultural Change – Rule #1

Craig Grimestad

I don’t recall were I first heard this saying, but it is a truism I used to have on the wall in my office captioning a cartoon picture of a man pounding his fist on the table. It read “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. As Change Advocates (remember you are a Change Advocate – see Rules of Road – Introduction) you seek to change the will, the “want to”, for individuals across the company. So we must not only be clear about the change, but also be persuasive in why it is “good for them”. Now I am guessing that you may have thought I was going to say “good for the company”, or if you are catching on – “good for the culture”. But, truth be told, each individual with “skin in the game” is ultimately looking for their place in the culture, for their success. So in the context of the company and of the culture, why is it good for the individual? Juran likened implementing change to asking individuals to open their mouths and take a spoon full of medicine from a stranger. As a Change Advocate, you are that stranger!

So as we begin to review the Rules of the Road, let me just make one point of clarity. If you check the references you will note that Joseph Juran actually called these the Rules of the Road for dealing with resistance to change. Well, we know that resistance will be there and ultimately we are working to change the culture to accept the operational or technological change – so why not plan upfront to conduct ourselves and plan the implementation in a way that aids the successful integration of our change into the culture and preclude the cultural resistance? Hence it makes more sense to me to call these the Rules of the Road for cultural change. Don’t wait for that resistance before you act – plan the implementation to make as little of a ripple as possible. Think of yourself as an Olympic diver on the high dive – even though they do spectacular feats above the water, once they meet the resistance – I mean the water, they enter with barely a ripple. Go for as little of a splash as possible.

Rules of the Road

Number 1 – Provide participation to the recipient society. This actually is easier and more commonplace today than during the time that statistics was being assimilated into company cultures. At that time it was a bit unusual to include those affected by the change. “Leave your brains at the door” and “we don’t pay you to think” were expressions that often represented management’s perspective of worker participation in thinking about issues affecting their job. Today we commonly talk about “buy-in”, but this goes a step beyond that – closer to “ownership”. You want the recipient society to have sufficient participation that they want this to happen. They have “kicked the tires”. They have had their questions answered, tried it out in some form – perhaps a pilot, and seen their recommended adjustments included. It’s no longer just his or her idea – it’s our best thinking. They have skin in the game. Their reputation is now on the line. This participation should be ongoing, not just before and during the initial launch. It is common for companies to have a RIM structure that includes executive sponsorship, an Executive review board, a Records Manager, and Records Coordinators. Why not put that structure together upfront and begin the participation process with them?

Well, we’ve only covered one Rule of the Road but next time we’ll pick up the pace – I promise!

More in