When Change Fails

It started well. Some customers had complained that other patrons weren’t following the rules exactly. The behavior of this small group of customers was causing minor inconvenience to other patrons. To its credit, the organization listened to the complaints and responded with a solution.

That’s when things went wrong. Instead of censuring the offending customers, the organization decided to accommodate them by giving them their own space so that their behaviour would not interfere with the other customers.

However, the space that was given to them was taken away from the area usually used by the patrons who had complained in the first place.

The change was introduced without notice, and with only a vague description of the reason. It was largely misunderstood — even one of the people for whom the change was made complained to me that he didn’t understand why they made the change. There were, apparently, many complaints registered to management.

To its credit, the organization listened to the complaints the second time, and responded. However, this change was to just go back to the original arrangement.

I thought about what can be learned from this failed change.

To its credit, the organization did listen and respond. However, the response was poorly communicated and appeared arbitrary. The very people who have expressed the need for change were those that were affected in a way that was perceived negatively. In my opinion, if the change had been communicated properly and they had  persisted, I believe the customers would have come to accept and appreciate the benefits of the change.

Now, however, the problem still exists. And, even worse,  the organization will be reluctant to make changes, even positive ones, because they know that participants will complain about the change. Over time, this will cause the organization to stagnate, because change is vital to life.


About the Author Les Lindquist