The Psychology of Records Management: Rules of the Road for Cultural Change – Rules #2 & #3

Craig Grimestad

Did I say last time that I would pick up the pace? Oh boy… – we have some very important and very significant rules to cover, let’s get right to it:  

Number 2 – Avoid surprises.   All of Juran’s rules are helpful and important – but this one has career implications! Patterns of culture provide stability and therefore comfort to those in the “society”. For change advocates, planning and publicizing the path of change to the culture, provides confidence that this new path is stable and will accomplish its goal. In pursuing and implementing change you will be working with two groups – your support team and the recipients. Your support team will consist of individuals in leadership positions in the society as well as some visionary (and perhaps assigned) members of the society. The support team is where your horsepower comes from – this group includes members that organizationally have responsibility for the activities of the recipients. This group reviews your plans and agrees that these changes will take place. They have endorsed and assigned their credibility to you and your plan! You cannot disappoint them without suffering damage to the end goal and your own personal status within the culture. Since “things” happen, in spite of good planning, foresight and preparation, it is likely that some “potholes” will develop on your path. As soon as you see them coming, you must develop an appropriate adjustment to your plan and alert your support team. If there must be a surprise, make it as small and insignificant as possible. Never (did I say never?), NEVER wait until a small problem becomes a big problem before seeking help. The time to call the fire department is when you see a small fire on the horizon, not when there is a raging inferno across the street.

How do you avoid or minimize surprises?   Make sure the plan for change is solid – one that can be accomplished in the time allotted. Establish communication lines that keep your support team and recipients up to date. Report project status to the support team regularly. Include accomplishments, still to do’s, work in progress, potential issues, and issues in work. Also establish a communication line for “emergencies” – bulletins that provide real time identification of a “crisis” along with resolution options including the path you intend to take (unless directed otherwise). These communication lines need to be established at the outset of the project. At the time of a crisis, without a previously established path, it may not be possible to get to your support team with your perspective and potential solution, before others provide their tales of gloom and doom. Successful performance in avoiding surprises will bring you respect, the confidence of leadership, and accolades with potential for greater responsibilities. Failure in this area will bring you lack of confidence, second guessing and additional oversight. It will be difficult to climb out of this hole – if you ever can. While much is forgiven (we must move on), little is forgotten (not sure I can trust him/her again).

Number 3 – Provide enough time for the recipient society.   The recipient society needs time to examine and then understand the change: What really is the intent of the change (Is there a hidden agenda?)? What is the benefit?  Is this the best way to change? Is the change really worth it? What must I do to comply? The recipient society needs time to ponder and answer these questions.

Once the recipient society has examined and understands the change, it needs time to make the changes. Departments and individuals alike are in different situations regarding compliance with the new requirements. Allow each sufficient time to make the changes in a compliant way. There are a number of ways to provide sufficient time to make the necessary changes: The schedule can be established based on the greatest time needed. Scheduling can be staggered, with compliance completion based on specific times needed. Extensions can be given based on specific circumstances.

Juran in his video series called culture change for society “grand”, “majestic” and likened it to biological changes. He said “We have gone from the ox cart to the jet engine – that’s progress. But the stupid chick still takes 21 days to hatch. Some people resent that – no progress”. Attempts to speed up the hatching of the chick results in death or disfigurement.   Not allowing enough time for change will be the root cause of many problems down the road. Allow the chick (change) its required time for a healthy hatch.

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