Do any of you hear two imaginary voices, one seemingly on each shoulder offering opposing messages? I do. One is a positive message of hope and possibility and the other is of negative discouragement.

The Dreamer versus the Pragmatist

I much prefer the inspiring messenger as opposed to the naysayer. Who wouldn’t? But I have two ears, so I must listen to both voices.

The negative voice is the clear-eyed pragmatist. The positive voice is the creative, wild-eyed dreamer. Using a jail prisoner analogy, the pragmatist sees the prison window bars as barriers, while the dreamer sees the stars in the night sky beyond the window bars.

The topic and context for each message I’ve been hearing involves the frustratingly slow adoption rate for adopting analytics and progressive enterprise performance management methods. (Examples of EPM methods are the balanced scorecard with key performance indicators, channel and customer profitability analysis, driver-based rolling financial forecasts and lean management techniques.)

Analysts and EPM project managers in all industries struggle with the acceptance of their ideas, methods and findings. Work colleagues and managers are often suspicious and some demonstrate substantial resistance to change. (You know the type: the ones with the motto of “We don’t do it that way here.”)

The Need for Behavioral Change Management

Many organizations prove reluctant to adopt analytics and EPM methods. Most organizations mistakenly believe that applying analytics and EPM methods entails 90 percent math and 10 percent organizational change management with employee behavior alteration. In reality, it is closer to the other way around; it is more likely 5 percent math and 95 percent about people. Analytics and EPM methods are much more than numbers, dials, pulleys and levers. People matter – a lot.

When organizations embark upon applying or expanding its use of analytics and EPM methods, I believe they need two plans: an implementation plan and a communication plan. The second plan is arguably much more important than the first.

A challenge in removing behavioral barriers to deploy analytics and EPM methods is that very few of us have training or experience as organizational change management specialists. We are not sociologists or psychologists. However, we are learning to become like them. As a first step in learning the ropes, we should focus on “why to implement” and its motivating effects on organizations rather than “how to implement.” The challenge is how to alter people’s attitudes.

One way to remove organizational cultural barriers is to acknowledge a problem within organizations. Many companies suffer from an imbalance of how much emphasis to place on being smart versus than being healthy. Most organizations over-emphasize trying to be smart by hiring MBAs and management consultants with a quest to achieve a run-it-by-the-numbers management style. These organizations miss the relevance of how important is to also be healthy – assuring that employee morale is high and employee turnover is low. To be healthy, organizations need to ensure that managers and employees are deeply involved in understanding the leadership team’s strategic intent and direction. Healthy behavior improves the likelihood of employee buy-in and commitment.

What Defines Buy-In Success?

Overcoming barriers is no small task. Cultural and behavioral obstacles not only include resistance to change but also some people who fear the consequences of knowing the truth. But driving social change in others is achievable. It requires motivation to want to make a difference in an organization’s performance and to provide others with insights and foresight for them to make better decisions.

Overcoming barriers also requires influencing others to be more open-minded. After all, one can never choose an alternative that has not even been considered.

The Two Voices on My Shoulders

Although I am an optimist by nature, I am also a perpetual worrier. I cannot shut out the pessimistic voice on one shoulder that constantly warns me about what can go wrong. Maybe that is okay, because that voice forces me think about contingency plans to cope with unplanned and unexpected events and outcomes.

I believe we all need both voices. Just do not shut down the positive voice. It is a corny cliché, but where there is a will there is a way. Try not to only see the prison window bars but also the stars.

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