The Reality in The Rules of Change!


Judy M. Bardwick, Ph.D.

The mantra is always Better! Faster! Cheaper! Entitlement cultures are not good innovators, are slow to react, and are very expensive bureaucracies that produce lots of garbage. Leaders should not start major change efforts unless they believe there is a good chance of success and they are committed to follow through. Leaders must stay the course. Success motivates and generates optimism and energy. Failure does the reverse. Steps toward success must be celebrated.  Keep the change process as simple and focused as possible; reality will make it complex.

Leaders must communicate the reasons why the changes are necessary with a very high level of effectiveness. The difficult journey must be positioned a necessary and worth taking because the outcome will be very positive.  It is hard to change an Entitlement culture because the culture co-opts the change ‘initiative. Instead of getting core change, you get endless studies and complex process improvements.

Changing an Entitlement culture is much easier if there is a financial crisis so the sense that the wolf is at the door is real. Don’t use HR processes as the powerful lever; use metrics like loss of market share, loss of major customers … and the like to create a sense of urgency. The most effective reasons for change are external threats to the organization. Reality should be the driver for internal behavioral and personal changes.

Changing from Entitlement to Results-Driven is as basic or core as it gets. The natural response to core change is relief – or resistance and resentment. It’s common to find intellectual acceptance and emotional push-back. If we just fix this we can go back to the old ways. It is very common to find high levels of Entitlement and Fear together during a period of major change.  It’s easier to change specific behaviors than values or personality; it’s easier to change outcomes than an organization’s culture. Don’t try to change the culture and remember, No matter how long the runway, a pig can’t fly.

To execute the desired intention, the change must be obviously necessary or mandatory in terms of keeping your job.  Management must give people the specifics and models of which behaviors are desired or goals are required in order to minimize anxiety, always a destructive emotion. Leaders must be models of those behaviors and attitudes and most people will need coaching in real time.

Always use carrots and sticks. In the best of circumstances you can use more carrots than sticks. There must be significant rewards for change accomplishments and negative outcomes for resistance or apathy.  People need to know that the journey from Entitlement to Earning always goes through Fear so a period of fear and anxiety is inevitable. Management should try to achieve a medium level of fear – not anxiety – which is motivating. This period must be seen as a time-of transition that will end.

A successful change effort will result in increased personal and organizational confidence. Confidence is the liberating variable from fear.  In a major change effort, more people will go from Entitlement to Fear than from Fear to Earning. In other words, some percent will not make it. Organizations’ must decide what to do with these people.  Organizations, especially large ones, are not in just one sector of the curve. Change strategists have to decide which is the dominant characteristic of parts of the organization in order to create appropriate strategy, in large, old and successful companies, the Mother Culture tends to be Entitlement.

When employees can earn conditional commitment, they have a job if their performance is consistently outstanding, their knowledge and skills are current, the organization needs what they can do, and the organization can pay them, then employees and the organization have a reciprocal and fair deal and both feel they have a considerable degree of control over what happens to them.  Creating conditions that reduce fear and hopelessness in employees liberates employees to have positive feelings about their work, their boss, their organization – and their future.

Where there is mutual respect and trust between employees and the organization, there is also mutual commitment and good feelings.  Organizations need to know that it is in their own best interest to greatly increase their commitment to employees in order to gain high levels of employee commitment and engagement…and financial success.  In unsettled times, great leaders resonate to the feelings of the population and they never underestimate the importance of creating hope and a belief in a positive future.


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