Turning Assassins into Ambassadors

Balcroft has provided operational consulting support to numerous companies across a multitude of sectors and organisations. Whilst we have been extremely successful in achieving the needs of our clients, we have always been faced with a recurring problem within each project. The common theme is the presence of at least one assassin within the organisation.

There are a number of different reasons why an assassin is adamant that no change is required within the business, ranging from paranoia about exposure of their failings, to scepticism because they have witnessed many, and perhaps in some ways similar, programmes fail before, to even not perceiving there is a need for change in the first place. These assassins are in each and every company, and they hold various roles from the most junior, to the most senior.

Whatever your reason for undertaking a change initiative, you endeavour to be successful on the project or programme, and it is imperative to convert an assassin into an ambassador.

So what key things do we need to take into consideration when faced with such a task? Here, we have outlined four vital actions to take:

  1. Some managers are very closed off to the idea of an analysis being undertaken on their particular area/department. They cannot comprehend that the analysis will identify potential opportunities for improvement, because they are concerned it will expose certain inefficiencies caused by decisions they have made or other failings of theirs. It is pivotal to reassure that person that opportunities to make improvements are great and that any wastage identified, is not and will not be down to an individual, it is an operating model and process failing which is the issue. Furthermore, that individual will become a hero if their operation is transformed, yielding significant top/bottom line benefits for the business. Like point 1, you have to help them realise that change can benefit them in so many ways.
  2. In order for any assassin to recognise the need for change, it is imperative to help them identify the areas in which inefficiencies exist within the company. This can be done in a simple and practical way; start by showing them how their role, department and company as whole will be affected if improvements are not made. Then, show them how their role will be made easier and more efficient if the changes are put in place. Sustained change will not happen overnight: There is no silver bullet. Create a clear action plan for responding to individual disagreements to change, this may seem obvious but you will be surprised how many companies do not do this. Your response to an individual’s disagreement is taken in a subjective manner. You know how best to approach them and speak with them on a level-headed basis. In essence, if you change the paradigm at your organisation, move away from the typical reaction to a complaint (which is to be defensive and, in poorer cases, to be a jerk about it), and start viewing the complaint as the gift that it is, there’s a healthy return on investment.
  3. Some assassins, usually those in a more senior role, believe that the only effective way of getting people to change, is to force new ways of working on their employees. If they believe the only way of making change stick is to force it on their colleagues, it is imperative to demonstrate how undertaking a change programme in this manner will have the opposite effect of what they desire. Find examples if possible, get them to speak to individuals who disagree. You will need to convince that person that adopting a collaborative approach, by working with people, so they are involved in designing the change programme and therefore take ownership of it, will mean it has a far greater chance of being sustained.
  4. If an individual has experienced a number of change programmes before, which have in turn failed, and they are understandably very sceptical about any new ideas or changes being implemented, it is very wise to have that person’s input regarding what approaches were taken and why they were not successful, so learnings can be gleaned. If they feel they have a voice and their opinion is respected, they will very quickly become an ambassador for the new change programme and help ensure it is a success.

The most destructive kind of assassin is the silent assassin. This kind of person will pay lip service to their peers/more senior management about supporting a change initiative, but behind the scenes they will not and cannot adopt the new ways of working or they will try to spend their time sabotaging the success of the project. In this instance, if the person really is so determined to ruin a better working environment for everyone else, which will only yield greater benefits for both the company and the individuals within it, they should be removed from the company. 

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