As a leader, you have a clear picture of what needs to be done, and you communicate that to your people in terms of your core values and beliefs. You send that message down through middle management and suddenly you get refraction; things begin to go all over the place and nothing is accomplished.
Change management experts will tell you that the middle management team and its operating beliefs is usually where things fall apart. While they may understand the vision, the pressures of the day-to-day work environment often deflect what needs to be done to implement change.
Most companies blame refraction on lower level employees: the production line, warehouse workers, or retail clerks. I’ve found that these people are typically smart and want to work hard, but they can’t get management to listen to them.
What do we do in this situation?
The first step is to refine (or create, if there isn’t one already) a vision that connects the organization to its future. This creates trust between the leaders, management and front-line workers. You can use a vision for the entire company, or for a specific project. It helps answer the question, “Why are we doing this?”
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