The Tension Between Old and New Behaviors

Every good organization is always examining itself, its policies and procedures, behaviors and norms. And when something major changes inside your organization, there often needs to be a close examination of how things are done, and an effort made to adapt to the new reality. This happened, or should have happened, in many ways and in nearly every organization in 2020.

For example, when your organization suddenly becomes bigger or smaller, new behaviors and a re-evaluation of roles and responsibilities is almost certainly called for. And the bigger the change, the quicker and more drastic the subsequent changes need to be. 

When your organization moves from an office culture to a virtual one, the same holds true. Most, if not all, of your norms need a review. 

When your organization changes its business model in any major way…

When your organization changes the way it is staffed…

When your organization redesigns the org chart…

You get my point. Major changes often call for, in fact require, a major review of policies, procedures, behaviors and norms.

And these changes in procedures and behaviors often create several kinds of tensions. First, new behaviors always take getting used to, and most people in general get pretty comfortable with the way things have been done previously. But there is also an organizational tension created around the cost of the new behavior. Every change and subsequent behavior shift should theoretically solve a certain problem for you, but will almost certainly come with a cost of something else lost.

For example, if we are moving towards a more efficient organizational structure, one of the things that might get lost is collaboration. Efficiency often means giving people a clearer mandate to get certain things done, and it often means streamlining decision making, reducing layers and bureaucracy. Those are all good things, and a great benefit. But if those changes come at the expense of lost collaboration, then the new found efficiency might also come at a great cost. 

Another tension that is common comes between autonomy and oversight. When you have a talented and proactive team, autonomy is highly valued. Smart, talented, proactive, independent people want a certain amount of autonomy. I do… and that’s one of several reasons why I decided to start my own business twenty years ago.

But increased autonomy often comes at the expense of good oversight. Not enough autonomy, and you might disenfranchise and demotivate your staff. Too much autonomy and you might reduce the oversight too much and end up with undisciplined, unfocused organization… which creates an entirely new set of problems.

My point here is that it is healthy to think of these kind of changes and behavior shifts in pairs… efficiency vs collaboration is a common tension… as is autonomy vs oversight. Don’t just think about what you want the new “theme” or focus for your team will be. When thinking about what the new focus will create, also think about what it will cost. And we always need to balance to gain of the new behaviors vs the cost of the loss of the old behaviors. Every time you change something major in your organization, you might be solving one problem and you might be creating a new one at exactly the same time. 

Leaders, keep an eye on both sides of the ledger. Both matter.

Have a great and safe day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.