Boxing Clever


” Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.” Mike Tyson was not known for his wit and wisdom but his ferocity. His comment was therefore probably just a statement of the obvious that when it came to the fight whatever cleaver tactics his opponent had in mind they were still going to get hit very hard. Yet the comment is memorable because in life so many carefully workout plans disintegrate the first serious challenge they face. 

Senior management/managers have a plan. They are often rather pleased with their plan as it represents a neat solution to a problem they need to address. So pleased are they with their plan that they are dismissive of concerns or queries raised on the detail of implementation. After all it is for others to work out the detail. “ Others” usually means front line or middle managers who in turn look to HR.

Whether it an individual manager wanting to make changes to a local shift system or senior management on behalf of the board wanting to bring about a large scale merger it makes sense to run the idea past HR before hand. This is not about asking HR whether it is a good plan it’s about asking how best to implement this plan. 

I’m not saying anything new but it is surprising how often management get all macho when they feel under pressure. This can led to some ill thought out statements early on in the process which the staff side consider provocative and are hard to move back from. How a plan is introduced often determines how smooth the implementation will be. If staff and managers likely concerns have been identified in advance they can be incorporated in how the plan is sold to those who must make it work. The hawks on the senior management team will say we shouldn’t have to “sell” our plan to our staff/ managers and maybe you shouldn’t but experience and common sense tells us  imposed plans meet greater resistance. 

For this reason however big or small the change being proposed some form of consultation should take place. This is not to ask staff and managers if the changes should take place but to get those who will be affected and who will implement the changes to identify any obstacles that will need to overcome. And then to get their help with suggestions on how to make this work. 

The first step is for senior management to announce that they have been giving some thought to a particular challenge the organisation faces,they wish to share their thinking and listen to concern and suggestions for moving forward.  HR can help facility the consultation and identify how different sections of the organisation will be effected. 

To continue the boxing metaphor you don’t want to get caught by a sucker punch and you don’t want a long drawn out fight that leaves everyone battered and exhausted. 

Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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