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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | Personals | Yellow Pages  January 28, 2004
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Don't Forget To Revolt First!
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By H. Martin de'Campo

There's always chatter about the latest "new thing" in recruitment. These new things always bring a litany of new acronyms and words to learn. In recent years we've been hearing about Six Sigma (in one form or another), ATS (applicant tracking systems), TRM (talent relationship management), online screening solutions, and other. This clatter for the need to deploy the "latest stuff" is always well-intentioned; yet hearing it always makes me smile.

The reality is, you tend to get a little jaded when you've been a consultant for over years and helped so many companies get their acts together with their "business and reengineering projects."

My exposure has definitely made me more of a simpleton about what works and what doesn't. But one golden rule has always held up during the many projects: No new program will yield positive results unless a revolt takes place first.

Too many strategic corporate staffing initiatives fail due to lack of leadership, or "putting-the-buggy-before-the-horse syndrome". It matters not whether you want to deploy sigma quality practices, TQM, BPR, an ATS or TRM, or whatever "new thing" you've decided on for your department. It will fail, unless there's a revolt first!

Revolution, mind change, heart change, group epiphany, situational brain washing, rite-of-passage, inspirational-bridge, situational-thresholds ďż˝ call it what you will, but a revolution must always precede an evolutionary period. This is simply human nature as evidenced by world history in politics, war, sports, technology, and elsewhere.

A Lesson In Revolution

When I was a graduate student at USC, I committed an unforgettable blunder that ended up being a great lesson throughout my professional career about the need to lead and revolt. I was taken a course under what I thought was an under-spoken professor of project management and evaluations named Dr. Joseph S. Wholey. It always amazed me how tolerant of noise Professor Wholey was. There was always a constant "whisper" of conversations during his lectures, yet he always kept right on talking.

But one day, things changed. I walked in five minutes late to class that day, sat down, and didn't really notice how unusually quiet it was. I started to ask a buddy in class a question about something, and as he desperately tried to "shush." from out of nowhere I here this tremendous BANG! from the front that sounded like a gun shot! It was Professor Wholey, who had just slammed his book on the lectern. Everyone was frozen like deer in front of the headlights.

The professor looked at me and said, "Mr. de'Campo, before you thoughtlessly walked in late to my class, I kindly requested that everyone from now on, not speak when I'm lecturing. Will you kindly oblige?"

"Y-y-y-yessssss sir," I responded, "My apologies, sir." Ironically, he was speaking on the topic of being a persuasive leader, on being capable of changing a group's emotion, mind, heart, and overall sentiment. As simple as this lesson was, Professor Wholey's little book-slamming "revolt" made our classes forever quiet, and imprinted on my mind the knowledge that there needs to be a rite-of-passage, or revolt, via strong leadership before any significant group reengineering can begin.

So whether you're a recruiter, HR director, VP, or manager, if you're intending to deploy a new resource or process, you will need to plan for a little revolutionary group mind-change if the initiative is to take root.

Nine Ways to Revolt

Whenever my own company engages clients with our onsite recruitment modeling or OD & HR consulting services, we have a collection of possible ways to "incite" a revolution. Consider the following as you plan your own changes:

  1. Talk is cheap, so be decisive. There's nothing more detrimental to a revolt and project initiation than a director who is not accountable. Whatever goals or promises the team leaders or members make must be expedited. As revolt director, you must make your "yes" a definitive "yes," and your "no" a definitive "no." This sounds simple enough, but for leaders who are accustomed to waffling and changing their minds to fit their schedules, decisiveness is one of the most difficult things for them to accomplish. But if you continue with indecision, you may find yourself being asked to leave and be forced to replace your leadership with someone who does have their act together. Don't be wishy-washy!
  2. Shock your team and department. Create your own memorable occasion by seizing a day to startle your company with a little marketing campaign. One department we reorganized in Korea came up with the concept of getting all of us black T-shirts with simple white silk-screened messages. They read things like: "Something big is about to happen!" "Kiss your comfort zone bye-bye," and, "Metamorphosis team member," Mine read, "Director of Revolution!" There were a number of other kooky messages that get lost in the Korean translation. But the point is, get attention for your revolt, because later that will be refocused on the project deployed. This type of marketing attention assists in accountability and prestige as well. If anyone considers being flaky at all, these whimsical public actions will immediately remove any temptations that may dilute activities. Declare the vision in a public way and soon other employees will WANT to join in the revolt.
  3. Avoid idea killing. When the revolt is finally underway and you've corralled the team to the point that they're listening and desiring change, you'll notice a much more participatory group of people inspired to contribute to the design of your department's evolution, whatever that may be. So don't risk loyalties just because you're hearing some inappropriate ideas from the team. This is a brainstorming effort. One of my favorite responses is, "That's a great idea. Perhaps we should hold on to that until later in the project." You simply never know when your firm or department may be ready for those ideas in the future.
  4. "Kidnap" and take "hostages." If by chance you have difficulty creating some significant momentum forward, take hostages! We often engage our clients with this tactic. Frequently, the start of a revolution is too slow to significantly ignite a long-term evolution where unity and energy will be required to deploy a new business process or technology. So when that happens, we take people "hostage" by announcing a meeting ahead of time to assure that all team members are present. When they ask what it's about, I simply say, "Be there and you'll find out," with a smile. Often times, they feel it's a meeting where they'll be reprimanded or chastised somehow, but curiosity always manages to get them there regardless. When the time arrives, we pack our cars and head out to the nearest restaurant and bar, where a private large table is waiting in reserve. There, after a round of drinks and appetizers, all defenses are removed and I engage them with questions like, "What's going on?" "Why haven't we achieved the benchmarks we set out to achieve?" or, "How do we innovate in ways that surprise our clients/competitors and reward our shareholders?" Then I warn them that unless we don't settle on a path of correction that achieves our purposes, no one will be leaving the meeting (don't forget to smile). Kidnapping and taking hostages may sound a bit draconian, but in actuality it becomes a wonderful exercise in socially and strategically bonding your "revolutionaries" and letting them know you're serious enough about the project to take them hostage and hold them accountable.
  5. Plan for daily strategy deliverables. Make sure you plan some easy-to-reach victories to lend positive inertia to your revolt. Create a chain reaction based on thinking fast, but acting even faster. The incremental approach is just fine, even encouraged. One common downfall of many recruitment directors or HR leaders is that they bite off more than they can chew. You simply can not fix everything you want quickly in one swoop. The fact is, if you set such daunting goals, your team will more than likely fail to reach them, which will end up discouraging both you and the team. After a successful revolt, when a strategy and resource has been decided upon, I always attempt to reach some quick victories in our overall plan in order to drive some fast and dynamic impact. This typically encourages everyone, and those who didn't buy in before will be "bought" when they see the victories rolling in.
  6. Use "VV" (visceral & visual) aids. Obviously, the goal at the end of this revolt is for the team to agree on a course of strategic action that will drive the improvements you and the company desire. This is called the final intellectual design. However, one of the most common blunders that leaders attempting to design and implement change commit is in their lack of ability to communicate a compelling and dynamic vision. Leaders often lack creative and visceral ways to "paint" the vision in a contagious, persuasive, we've-got-to-have-it way! Remember, a revolt or call for change is not a rational action, there is no "planned" manner to incite a revolt. A call for change must touch humanity, it must be often emotional, and definitely driven with as much character and charisma as possible within the context of the revolt. At one of my company's onsite engagements, it became apparent that our client was having deep problems closing candidate offers. We knew their compensation packages were within the top 2% in the nation; we even provided many of our candidates generous relocation packages and services that should have rendered a higher candidate hiring rate. We all wondered, what was wrong? After a minor revolt to investigate and improve our hiring process, we learned that our client company, although involved with a very technically admirable product, still came off very boring (one employee mentioned "geeky"). That's when we initiated the creation of a multimedia video outlining who our client was and what their future held. It was a spectacular video, with music, art and graphics ďż˝ anyone would have thought MTV had produced it. Visceral and visual resources to compel mind and attitudinal change are critical, so use them.
  7. Don't just accept criticism, invite it. Many people lack tact during honest moments. However, if you're trying to drive communication that creates true, lasting, and effective change, everyone needs to be heard, no matter how painful the message. In the above situation, where our revolt revealed the confession that many in the company felt the firm came off as "boring" or "geeky," it had to hurt! Yet had that information not been revealed and confronted, it most certainly would have never been changed. Thanks to a revolt that included the whole department, along with honest criticism, the entire "geek" image went out the window and our candidate hiring 100%! In the end, the team must feel that you're inclusive and that you will even appreciate their input.
  8. Love your enemies. You never know what your "enemies" or critics may be thinking. In fact, my experience is that my biggest critics have often become my most fervent supporters. How? Remember, you're trying to change people's minds here, and that especially includes the minds of your most ardent enemies. They have to be on board your plans at the end of the revolt. Outspoken people often are seen as "heretics" or "trouble makers," but the fact is that more often than not they're frustrated innovators who desire positive change as well. A revolt is a radical act by nature, so learn how to violate industry and cultural norms and how to challenge the orthodoxies that other people have taken for granted. This is called business-concept innovation and team-building. If you can get your critics on your side, you've won half the battle and may have doubled your presence by having another strong advocate for change when you're not around.
  9. Impart the big picture. During this revolt, there should be some very difficult questions asked: "What are we going to become after this effort?" "What are we doing that's different from everyone else in our industry?" "What's our purpose in this organization?" "What do our clients (internal or external) like about us?" The challenge you're going to have is to manage the friction between the strategy's purpose and the "daily reality blows" that come with your business environment. Ultimately, the focus and strategy should unite your team's passions with the final positive outcome you all agree to deploy. To quote Carly Fiorina here, "Preserve the best, reinvent the rest!"

Conclusion The power of stimulating a corporate or departmental transition into the use of new processes or new technologies is critical to any organization that intends to compete in this economy. However, to become successful change agents we must quantify the effective steps in any implementation strategy of change and transition. Dynamic communication, leadership, creativity, and persuasion are among the many ingredients needed to engender change. But before any of this can take place, first you must start a revolt!

Until next time, let me know your thoughts...I'm here to serve.

H. Martin de'Campo () is the managing principal and founder of professional human capital firm Humanatek, Inc. . He is also a popular speaker, author, commentator, and expert human capitalist. Humanatek designs, deploys, and manages advanced human capital and staffing solutions, empowering companies to attract, develop, and retain talent rapidly, strategically, and comprehensively. Humanatek's services successfully converge total quality management, benchmark staffing methodologies, and computer/Internet technologies rendering a new, novel and now patented approach to staffing, executive search and HR consulting.

(Copyright 2002 Electronic Recruiting Exchange. All Rights Reserved)

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