Project Rule 73: Recognize the security of atrophy
Project Rule 73: Recognize the security of atrophy
Jim Bratsakis Posted by Jim Bratsakis

Jim Bratsakis relishes sharing knowledge and ideas that result in productivity gains for individuals and corporations.

Job security and impact on salary are the most important parts to understanding change management. Virtually all employee motivation is derived from these two basic components. Other motivators include making a job easier and chance for promotion.

The bottom line is this: for any roll-out to be successful, you need to understand motivators and have a plan for working around the security of atrophy. It is not easy.

One of the hardest obstacles to implementing change in any organization is the amount of effort that people will expend to stop an idea. In fact, a defacto maxim holds true: “If I expend more energy to stop an idea today, it will take less energy for me tomorrow to support the status quo.”

It is amazing how many people want to stop new ideas. They feel paranoid, because new ideas come every six months. They provide their fearful commentary with the phrase, “Didn’t we do this crap last year?” Their fatalism is justifiably frustrating and creates a strong pragmatic view.

The people I’m focusing on are those employees who sit in the corner and say nothing, or, simply don’t participate and keep going about doing things the old way until they are finally exposed. Then, they play stupid games instead of actually doing anything remotely beneficial.

Some people want to sabotage the project

At one job I worked on, there was a person in a cubicle. We shall name him Bill. Juanita, in the neighboring cubicle, asked him a simple question aloud. Bill replied by sending Juanita an e-mail that asked, “Do you have a question? If so please ask me the question in an e-mail.” Bill didn’t even bother to get up and say anything.

The question was not complicated, and they were separated by a 6-foot cubicle wall. This was Bill, in a nutshell. He was close to retirement. His only impact on the project: He was determined to slow it down.

Project review communications

Bill also employed the “didn’t you read that” trick when we were doing a project review. The team had a 120-page quality manual that was getting updated. Their rule was this: all changes have to be logged in 24 hours prior to the meeting. Bill systemically would make the change to five separate pages and distribute his updated quality document without a hint of where the change was. Then, in the project review meeting, Bill would react incredulously when people said they didn’t read his updated document. As a result, because he was in charge of quality, their information didn’t get to move forward because it didn’t support his quality document. This is the security of atrophy. The Bills of the world will gin up the energy needed to block progress, until you either “just can’t do it anymore” or find another job.

Note: A sad reality is that people want job security. Oftentimes, a new system really is used to eliminate jobs. So… recognize the security of atrophy and respond accordingly.

What’s your favorite antidote for atrophy?


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