The sun burned down on the sidewalk as thousands of worker ants scurried to grab their piece of the sand and build the next home. They worked without thinking, because they just wanted to get home. A small beetle hustling by heard them talking. Being a bit of a nosey beetle, he listened in:
Ant #1: “Man that sun is hot. You know, I used to love this job when we had that one manager. He’d be out here with us hustling. The guy now stays in his little sand office and does nothing but bark orders. I just do this job for the paycheck.”
Ant #2: “I know what you mean; I just do this for the paycheck now. Picking up one grain of sand at a time and walking miles to drop it on a pile that will probably be gone in a few days isn’t my idea of a good time.”
Ant #3:”I heard the current manager is on the way out – you know the big Ants can’t stand anybody that doesn’t hustle. There’s a new guy named Adam coming in next week. Maybe he’ll change things.”
Ant #1: “Just what we need – more change from incompetent managers that make our jobs harder and theirs easier. Perfect.”
The beetle took flight, anxious to tell his friends about this bit of gossip. Later they would crawl out of an opened drawer in that house down the road and terrify the woman that lived there. None of them liked her anyway.
One week later, the new manager named Adam showed up on the work site with great intentions of making life better for the ants. He was raised by a father who was a Worker Ant, and he understood the inefficiencies that made their lives harder.
In his first week, Adam sat through endless meetings where managers presented their ideas with horrible little PowerPoint slides that would justify the building of yet another ant home. When he looked into it, he found that approximately 50% of those homes were built in the cracks of sidewalks. Waste of time, waste of money. But if managers had more projects, it secured their jobs. And the more Worker Ants they had under them, the greater their chance of staying around.
After weeks of observation and one-on-ones with managers, Adam decided on the following:
Adam scurried to his office the next morning, his tiny little hard hat slightly askew. He gathered his managers (who were all in their offices rather than out among their workers), crawled up the leg of the boardroom table and onto his podium atop it. Then he presented his exciting discoveries.
Once the presentation was made, Adam sat back, pushed his hard hat back, crossed four of his legs and smiled. Starting tomorrow, this company was going to implement changes that would turn this construction company around.
One Month Later
One month later, Adam had a follow-up meeting with his managers. Fewer homes were being built, more ants had defected to another colony, and only five ants attended the first colony meeting. Adam was flabbergasted. What had gone wrong? He paced around the room, picking up a grain of sugar he found on the floor as he moved to the table with the coffee machine. Nobody had an answer.
Adam finally brought in an old honey-bee friend of his and was now a change consultant (okay, you know I had to work that into the story). Her name was Joan, and her counsel had recently saved a Queen Bee that was in danger of a coup.
“What have I done wrong, Joan?” Adam asked. “I observed, talked to other ants, and came up with a plan that would make their jobs easier, more effective, and ensure that their opinions would be heard. And they’re doing less than ever!’
Joan smiled. “Well, let me ask you this. You told me why these changes were good for the ants. When you made this announcement to your managers, did you tell them what the benefits of this change were? Were they clear as to why this was going to happen?”
“Well, I figured that would be inferred from the plan of action,” Adam responded.
“Don’t underestimate people’s fear of change. They don’t trust it. Remember Red? You know, the red ant that told his construction company things were going to be better for everybody and then merged the colony with that less successful colony? 30% of the ants lost their jobs because of that merger.
If you want to create effective change, you have to move the heart of your colony by letting the ants know why this is good for them. Remember that story you told me about building your first house and how you wanted so badly to make life easier for the older ants that were working too hard? Tell that story. Explain why you want to make a difference here and the role that they were playing in the change. Make them feel valuable.” Joan offered.
“Well, maybe I should have done that at the first colony meeting. Okay, I get it and I can bring everybody back together. Anything else?” Adam asked.
“Let’s work on engaging the heart first,” Joan replied with a slight buzz of excitement.
Joan and Adam spent the next couple of days planning ways to move the heart of ants that had, thus far, been informed, but uninspired. Adam met with his managers, acknowledged the issues of the initial roll-out, and took responsibility for them. He reintroduced the ideas, telling his childhood story that inspired him to help this colony. He asked for the manager’s questions and opinions. He helped them develop their own stories and benefit language for re-engaging the hearts of their workers. He made sure everyone was aligned before they left the meeting.
After the second phase of the roll-out, production went up. Worker ants were happier with their jobs, and fewer sidewalk projects were built. The change was starting to happen.
Moral: Without the heart, change will last as long as an ant house build on a sidewalk.