The last couple of weeks have seen unprecedented behaviour in the UK banking sector. Banks seem nervous of lending to each other, and commentators struggle to explain LIBOR, SIVs and US sub prime activity. Rumours abound and banking share prices have fluctuated wildly on an hour by hour basis.
Northern Rock may feel unlucky that they have taken such an early hit, and could argue that their business model was and is sound. Nervous customers didn’t see it that way and queued for hours to ensure they could withdraw their savings. TV and radio vox pops most often heard people say, “I know I’m probably over-reacting and you could call it panic, but I want to be certain that I’ll be OK”.
It’s a sentiment you often hear around water coolers in businesses going through major change programmes. Those at the helm of the change programme may have a clear vision for what needs to happen and a coherent plan to implement the change, whilst people not involved on a daily basis worry that the change programme will have major and negative consequences for them.
In these situations employee behaviour doesn’t always follow rational patterns, worriers will worry, reducing their productivity, others may feed the rumour mill, exaggerating negative consequences with each re-telling whilst disregarding positive news as ‘spin’. Political players may spend more time jostling for position than adding value.
The most elegantly designed change programme can fail if people throughout the organisation want it to, or don’t trust it. Delivering successful change programmes means bringing the right people along on the journey, building confidence and a positive vision of the future sate throughout the organisation. That means thinking about the consequences beyond the senior management and project teams, keeping rumours at bay with hard facts, and keeping two way communication channels open through actively engaged teams.