Sunday, June 9, 2013

Predator Perception

A vital component of managing organizational change

Meet the lionfish: a beautiful but deadly predator that feeds on the life of the coral reef. On the reefs of Curaçao, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, a single lionfish can devour the reef population by a staggering 80% in just five weeks.

How is this possible? It’s a fish-eat-fish world out there. Isn't the sea is full of venomous predators?

One of the problems lies in perception.  The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific, not Curaçao. The reef fish of the Caribbean do not recognize the lionfish as a predator – perhaps swayed by its elegant fins and lovely stripes – and, hence, leave themselves vulnerable to attack. No red flags are raised; no alarms are triggered. The fish do not put up their guards, arm their defenses, nor act swiftly to divert the consequences. GULP! ...  And they're gone.

In business, we continuously scan the horizon for our widely known predators: competition, economic risk and market shifts, among the many. Behind the board room door, we design, plot and strategize to implement organizational changes to mitigate these risks. But, in the midst of this, do we recognize the predators swimming all around us?

As our organizations make swift enterprise-wide changes, it brings rise to predators lurking in the shadows. I’m not speaking of external forces or even individual stakeholders, rather the feelings of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and loss that surface in the workplace in times of large-scale change. These emotions are venom that can poison our efforts and kill our strategy.
Effectively managing change requires increasing our awareness of these threats. This is accomplished through stakeholder engagement and assessment – actively probing to identify the concerns of the impacted employee groups. In response, we allow our findings to shape the change, perhaps even the design of the future state. We engage employees and offer transparent communications to increase perceptions of certainty. We devise helpful resources to equip the workforce for the transition, giving rise to efficacy and confidence. Throughout the change, recognizing the hidden predators is essential for our survival.

And what can be done about the lionfish in Curaçao? This is my favorite part of the story. A shift in island culture was initiated through a campaign to put lionfish on the local menu. As both mindsets and pallets transformed, the lionfish faced a dangerous new predator: the local fishermen. Our last night in Curaçao, I did my good deed for the trip; I ate a lionfish and saved a reef.

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