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Understanding the 'Why'

Organizational Health

Q: I manage a family owned HVAC company (50 employees).  The greatest challenge I face is getting employees to follow simple procedures.  Do you have any suggestions on how to change their acceptance of following procedures?  What is your thought on using one simple performance measure for each employee that they can impact, but will focus them on following the procedure?

A: I don’t know enough about your situation, or for that matter about HVAC, to provide you with a complete or confident answer.  However, just recently a friend of mine told me about some advice he received from a trusted advisor about a situation similar to yours.  Rather than focusing on what they should do, try focusing on why they should do it.  There is a decent chance that they don’t understand the ‘why.’  So often people lose sight of the reason for a procedure or rule.  And depending on their personality type, some people are very reluctant to follow a rule if it has no purpose.

If you give your people a thorough understanding of the reason for a given procedure, then one of three things is likely to happen.  First, they’ll change their behavior because they understand the ‘why.’ Or second, they’ll question the why, which will give you a chance to consider whether the procedure makes sense.  Or third, they’ll continue to violate the procedure, and you’ll have the confidence you need to help them find a job in another organization that has lower standards.