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“The tail steers a dog”, or Three stories of real business

Svetlana Emelyanova, managing partner of STEP Consulting, shares three stories from business practice that describe the resistance of the company’s employees to useful changes and innovations, and explains how to resist this to the business owner
Case 1:

The owner of the manufacturing company conceived organizational changes. They were needed in order to prepare the company to capture a significant market share. He found consultants, met with them and was ready to start work. But then the chief accountant intervened. He either demanded to justify the cost of consulting services, then spoke about the need to reduce the budget, and in the end he went so far as to say directly to the owner of the business: “For the money I will advise you myself.”

Case 2:

During the transition of the retailer from an entrepreneurial type of management to a corporate one, new top managers came to it who, to put it mildly, were not very well received by long-time employees. However, the appearance of the marketing director caused particular resistance from the old guard. The entire department reared up, feeling that the new “broom” would be revenge in its own way. People began to run to the management and business owners, proving that the top came was incompetent, did not know the specifics of their business, mismanaged and not at all loyal to the company.

Case 3:

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For several years, the owner of a distribution company cannot force his employees to look for new customers to sell goods under their own brand. The entire sales department sits remarkably, engaged in servicing regular customers and quite easily getting the usual guaranteed level of income. The business has risen, but sales managers’ incomes are growing.

We brought these three cases because we encounter similar cases in eight out of ten cases. This is how in practice what is shown in books on management and management is called “resistance to change.” Resistance may look different, but it is based on the same phenomenon: the unwillingness of some people or groups of people in the organization to allow something new.

The question is: what caused such unwillingness? The answer is simple: everywhere and everywhere behind the resistance are the fears and concerns of the “old-timers” who are afraid for their place or their position in the company. By the word “place” in this article we mean the position, and by the word “position” – the role and status of a person in the organization (for example, the trustee of the owner).

Fear of losing a place is most often found among employees who feel incompetent or those who are not sure of the level of their professionalism. But instead of going to study or using the arrival of a competent specialist in the company to improve our own level, we often observe all kinds of discrediting newcomers, going “over the head” to the authorities with complaints and spreading rumors of “doing nothing” and the beginner’s mistakes.

However, the fear of losing a job is still not as strong as the fear of losing one’s unique position in the company: relations with the owners, special status of a management adviser or an informal leader of the labor collective. The status is threatened by all those who can get closer to the “body”: managers with experience in different business sectors, specialists who have worked in different companies of the same market and, of course, consultants. Therefore, if on the way to our arrival in the company there are rows of indignant employees proving to the owner that his decision to invite external consultants is wrong for one reason or another, you can no longer diagnose the control system: the phenomenon of “tail steering the dog” is obvious!

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