The Psychology of Records Management: Rules of the Road for Cultural Change – Rules #4 & #5

Craig Grimestad

Okay, let’s keep moving along:  

Number 4 – Start small and keep it fluid.   There is an old adage – “How do you eat an elephant? … One bite at a time.” This is a good thought to remember for cultural changes in general and Records Management changes in specific. Starting small, with a test group, a pilot, or selected individuals is a way for the change advocates and recipient society both to evaluate the actual impact of a change. It minimizes the risk of a full corporate implementation catastrophe, by providing actual results of change implementation. Now, both the change advocates and the recipients have data to review and the opportunity to propose changes prior to full implementation.

Introducing changes slowly, gradually and at a measured pace shows consideration for the regular work and other responsibilities of the recipients, while at the same time demonstrating that the changes are value added and the correct path forward. Being receptive to mid-course corrections keeps the change implementation fluid. The recipient society is actually able to take comfort in the predictability of a smooth persistent implementation.

Number 5 – Create a favorable social climate.   As noted in the introduction for Rule #1, you seek to change the “want to” for all individuals in the recipient society. Creating a favorable social climate is a big part of how that is done. The new patterns must become desirable and the old patterns undesirable; perhaps even unthinkable – definitely something no one would willingly want to do. There are many ways to accomplish this; here are a few to consider as well as others you develop for your specific program:

  • Have the President or CEO personally provide a message identifying the value of the change to the company, giving their personal endorsement for the changes, and thanking everyone in advance for their support and cooperation.
  • Have local leadership also send supportive communications and visibly participate in reviewing and monitoring the progress of the implementation.
  • Establish a compliance certification process for individuals and/or departments. This provides a challenge to work toward (which is a motivation for many) that provides for certainty of compliance and then recognition of compliance with the opportunity for departments and individuals to showcase their accomplishment.
  • Establish a challenge or contest for individuals and/or departments to achieve specific compliances.
  • Associate your change activity with other popular social movements like “Going Green”

In his book “Managerial Breakthrough” (cited as a reference in the first of the Rules of the Road Series) Juran tells the following illustrative story:

“In the early factory days of few machines, materials handling was done by human laborers. The most important single operation was picking things up and putting them down. Periodically, things were dropped, feet were injured, toes were smashed.

Then someone invented the safety shoe which provided a ‘hard hat’ for toes. Industrial companies propagandized these shoes and subsidized the price to make it easy for the men to buy them. Many men did buy them, but few men wore them. That was puzzling.

The trail led to the wives. The shoes not only looked unwieldy; they marked a man as a factory laborer – a badge of low caste. When the safety shoe was redesigned to look like a dress shoe, the usage rate rose sharply.”

Note the clear, agreeable, and certain benefit of safety shoes wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until the safety shoes were favorable socially that they were acceptable, and the change went forward. I love it when we can learn from others’ mistakes and not make them ourselves. Plan ahead to assure that your changes will be launched and implemented into a favorable social climate.

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