Updated: Sep 10, 2019
One of the most difficult tasks in organizational change is convincing other people to get on board. This is especially difficult at large companies, where you have to convince hundreds or thousands of people to go along and stop resisting. Self-management has nothing but positive benefits for every employee, so why do most organizations spend years battling the resistant masses?
Because it is forced. Typically, the choice is made at the top and every employee simply has to accept the change. Alas, companies need to evolve, which means their employees need to evolve with them. Sometimes, changes just need to be made. So, how do you implement large changes, effectively, with little resistance?
Offer the keys - Don't force the car.
Making the executive decision to transition your organization to self-management is like replacing someone's car with a brand new Tesla. The Tesla is faster, safer, more technologically advanced, better for the environment, has cheaper upkeep - the benefits are endless and the drawbacks are few, if any. However, if you simply take away the vehicle they have become accustomed to and make them drive this new thing, they will be upset, they will lose trust in you, and they will resist. They will want their car back, even if there is no logical reason that they should prefer their beat up machine over a modern feat of engineering. The same goes for major organizational changes. You can tell them that pay and power will be distributed more evenly, meetings will be more efficient, and freedom will be abundant, but if it feels forced, there will be a lot of resistance.
So, if you can't force the car, but what other option is there? Simple. You offer them the keys. Rather than stealing their car, telling them this new one is better, and hoping they see the light, you just set the keys on the table and let them know they are free to take the car whenever they want to. Then, you take the responsibility of convincing them how they would benefit from it. If you do a good enough job, they will want to drive the Tesla.
Similarly, when making organizational changes, don't tell them this is how it is and they will eventually realize it's better. Instead, put yourself in their shoes, empathize with their situation, and understand what you are selling well enough to explain how they would benefit from it, not just how the company would benefit from them using it. Are meetings better in this new system? Have them run their own meetings side-by-side, with the same people and the same prompts, changing only the meeting format. If the new system is actually better, they will experience that first hand and will be eager to have these new meetings.
Next time you're running into resistance, before questioning what they aren't getting, first ask yourself if you are forcing the car or offering them the keys.