Disengagement and Retribution

Your six months are up.  It’s time to go.  They liked some of what you did -“Gee that process was really neat” – but not all of it, and certainly not all of them.

The status quoers and jobs worths are delighted to see the back of you, the majority indifferent, but the enthusiasts who welcomed you with open arms, bought into your vision and adopted your practices are devastated.  Why?  Well what is going to happen to them now that you’re gone?

It’s one of the big barriers to pushing through changes.  It’s not that what you’re trying to do doesn’t bake bread.  If you’re good at what you do it probably does.  But they know you won’t always be there to look after them and protect them.  What will the disenfranchised boss do to the guys who lapped up everything you threw at them, swore that they would never return to the old ways, which were soooo bad by the way. Common sense and human nature says that they are Toast!

It’s one of the things that bugged me when disengaging from a site.  You were either thrown out the door or else  ran screaming doing a good impression of an octopus trying to grab the cheque before all passes were revoked.  But what about those left behind?

If the project sponsor doesn’t get all his managers to support the change this will happen more often than not.  If his guys are all on message they will do a lot of enforcing for you, if not they will do nothing to help you and will hinder wherever possible.  In many cases they will intimidate their employees to be less than co-operative.

It’s a tough situation.  How are you going to get the employees to play ball and adopt the new practices without fear of retribution.  A consultant who is only interested in the bottom line won’t care about this.  He will plough on and disregard the future of people who are supposed to be collaborating with him.  Ultimately he will ask/order them to do something that they are unwilling to do and ruin his identity and that of the project.  A consultant who understands the precarious situation the employees are in will do whatever it takes to ensure that in return for co-operation they are not.

Lieutenant Colonel David Gallula served in China, Greece, Indochina, and Algeriafor the French Army.  His book Counterinsurgency Warfare provides a path for defeating insurgents.  Many of the principles have parallels with trying to overcome a hostile organisational environment.

“Contact with the population, is actually the first confrontation between the two camps for power over the population.  The future attitude of the population, hence the probable outcome of the war, is at stake.  The counterinsurgent cannot afford to lose this battle.”

The success of your project rides on your initial engagement with the staff.  If you do not win them over you will lose all political at the top.

“The battle happens because the population, which was until recently under the insurgent’s open control and probably still is under his hidden control through the existing political cells, cannot cooperate spontaneously even if there is every reason to believe that a majority is sympathetic to the counterinsurgent.”[1]

The staff may agree with what you are trying to do but they won’t take sides until they are absolutely sure which one will win.

“The inhabitants will usually avoid any contact with him.  There is a barrier between them and the counterinsurgent that has to be broken and can be broken only by force.  Whatever the counterinsurgent  wants the population to do will have to be imposed.  Yet the population must not be treated as an enemy.”

Members of staff won’t ignore you, in fact they’ll do all they can to present a friendly face but won’t put themselves at risk until they are forced to do so.  In this context you will have to use the power you have been granted by the project sponsor and order them to carry out a number of activities.

“The solution is first to request, and next to order, the population to perform a certain number of collective and individual that will be paid for.  By giving orders, the counterinsurgent provides  the alibi that the population needs vis-à-vis the insurgent.  A terrible error would be, of course, to issue orders and be unable to enforce them; the counterinsurgent must be careful to issue orders sparingly and only after making sure that the population can humanly comply with them”

By using unconditional power you are indeed providing them with a get out.  In other words they do not lose face with their superiors as they had to comply with the request whether they liked it or not.

[1] David Gallula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Praegar Security International 2006), 81.


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