Sunday, February 10, 2008

Unequal distribution of benefits

A college professor of mine once said that the reason why some people oppose free trade is that the benefits often are distributed unequally. For instance, opening up textile trade surely reduces the cost of clothing for millions of people. However, for the thousands whose jobs are displaced, all they see is a plant shutting down.

The same is true for process change in any organization. The benefits of those changes are distributed unequally. For some, their job gets easier. For others, it means giving up control over a process. And still for others, it means that they will have to do things they differently. While the organization benefits as a whole, the ones who don't will do what they can to block the changes, or reduce their effectiveness. The textbooks treat this as if it can be solved with "buy-in" or motivational speeches. But the truth is that the only way to handle it is to face the facts. Only then can the real situation be dealt with honestly and respectfully.

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