September 2, 2014 posted in Organizational Values
Sometimes, things seem to be more complicated than they really should be. Right? Whether it is home, work, church groups, etc., things just seem to get more complicated than necessary.
Why is that?
I think a key issue has to do with goals and the strategies needed to achieve them. Every organization, whether it is a family, a department, a company or a country, should have goals. Setting and communicating goals is not enough. Developing specific strategies and then communicating those strategies is also important.
For example, if three people leave New York to drive to Los Angeles, their routes are likely to be different, unless otherwise directed. The goal was to get to LA, but the strategy on how to get there was not communicated. If there was an intention that they all meet up at the same hotel each night on the drive, it’s not going to happen unless those milestones are communicated and the drivers know they will be held accountable for being there.
When the goals have to do with changes in how an organization functions, clear and concise strategies are critical, and continued communication and reinforcement of those strategies are a must. As I have said before, the biggest mistake one can make when initiating a change process is to underestimate how difficult it is for people to change. In fact, even people who want to change, who buy into the goal and strategy, still find it difficult to change.
People come to rely on their intuition to get them through the daily challenges of their work. Change disrupts that intuition. It causes them to have to do more work, to adapt to new paperwork and strategies. But the change initiative is often targeted at just those intuitive behaviors that need to be changed in order to promote growth, learning, sustainability and organizational discipline.
So the strategies need to be heeded in order to accomplish the goals. Most importantly, in this change process, resistors to the process (intentional or unintentional) slow down the process. When that happens, the organization gets out of sync and that can be the most difficult time. It is also where the change process can accelerate.
Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao, both Stanford University Business professors titled Chapter 1 of their book, Scaling up Excellence, “It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War”. Boots on the ground are required to implement the changes that are required. What I find interesting is the metaphor that organizational change is a war. Setting goals is not a war, but implementing strategies to achieve the goals is often a war – a war of ideas, of changing behaviors, and often of loyalties and alliances.
One of the biggest challenges for leadership is holding people accountable for implementing the strategies. There are great employees at all levels of a company that will need to undergo difficult change. Jams Kouzner and Barry Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge, studied hundreds of leaders and came away with the absolute that all leaders challenge the process. “Not one person achieved their success by keeping things the same.” As one of their interviewees said, “Mediocrity and status quo will never lead a company to success in the marketplace.”
As one should never underestimate how difficult change is for an organization, one should also not underestimate the courage it takes to persevere through the change process and hold people accountable for their own personal change and acceptance of the process.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”