running a business 4: Getting Organizational Change started

 

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains at sunset

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I write a lot about business from an organizational standpoint and even crafted a three part ‘running a business’ breakdown of organizational attitude, organizational alignment and encouraging desired behavior.

 

 

I even wrote about organizational change/transformation from a leadership & management perspective, and why most desired transformations fail, back in February 2015 http://brucemctague.com/leading-change-why-most-transformation-fails

 

It occurred to me that I ignored implementation – getting change started.

The real plan it takes to make it happen.

Well. That would most likely take an entire book therefore I will focus on getting people to actually believe they can do what you will be asking them to do.

 

In my Feb 2015 article I wrote:

 

Getting change started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals.

Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere. Gaining cooperation takes time. And it doesn’t happen in one fell swoop.

And it often needs to be regained.

 

Sometimes leaders underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones.

 

Sometimes they grossly overestimate how successful they have already been in increasing urgency.

Sometimes they lack patience … ‘enough with the talk & planning and let’s get on with it.’

 

 

serious nonsense only f you believe

What I forgot to write was that leaders sometimes forget that the organization can sometimes forget they can actually be an organization from an aligned doing perspective. What I mean is that most good businesses have incorporated a sense of autonomy and over time the organizational alignment aspects fade into a subconscious background space and individual departments and groups coalesce around the autonomous aspects <it gives them a sense of pride, empowerment & self-actualization as part of the whole>.

 

 

This part of an alignment discussion with businesses is always a great, and relatively easy, one. Great because it always, ALWAYS, revolves around “I want” and “I wish” statements.

 

 

“I want everyone to think this way <and therefore do these things.”

 

 

“I wish employees would do ‘x’ more often.”

 

 

These are typically Leader driven thoughts and not employee-inspired thoughts and, suffice it to say, it is impossible to make changes that everybody will be happy with <initially>.

 

 

The other thing I have seen firsthand in management organizational consulting surrounding this topic is what I call the “five thing list.”

 

 

I can almost guarantee that if I am standing in front of a leadership team and they have decided that the organization needs some transformation to improve itself and I ask the billion dollar question “so if you could get your organization to do something what would be it be?” they will crank out a list of 5 things faster than shit passing through a goose <fast>.

 

 

And the five things look smart, relatively achievable and on point. That is the easy part.transformational leader 1

 

And then they immediately swing into wanting to discuss implementing the ‘actions & behaviors.’

 

 

This means we arrive at one of my favorite moments in these meetings where I get to get everyone to slow down a little bit and suggest that maybe we get an ‘attitude alignment’ in the organization before we go whole hog on some initiative.

 

 

What I mean is that sometimes you need to not only remind an organization that it is possible everyone can believe in doing one thing <that each department isn’t just another asshole who will never agree with you on anything> and that the entire organization CAN do something.

 

 

So let’s assume the organization knows the vision <the “why I should ever do anything you want me to do”> therefore the desire to do what you ask them exists … now it becomes believing you can do it.

 

 

This is actually a surprising thing to leaders when you talk about instituting change.

 

 

When you bring it up they are actually thinking “how can we institute the change/changes” so when I lean back and wisely put my hand under my chin and ask in a serious voice “will they believe they can do what you will ask them to do?” I will get a lot of “huh?” looks & responses.

 

 

It’s almost like a leader says in their mind “if I say it is good for the organization I just gotta figure out a way for them to start doing it.”

 

Nope.
You gotta get employees to believe they can do something organizationally first.

 

 

So what do I suggest?

 

 

Pick one thing.

It can be a relatively small thing … and just get everyone to do it. show them it can be done and the organization , as a whole, can do it. It’s like a band step at half time.

dance on the brink kids

“Every one step to the right !!!”

 

 

 

Once everyone laughs and gets the fact that while it seems crazy a tuba player can step to the right at the exact same time as the stupid piccolo player all the way over on the other side of the field … they start believing that maybe, just maybe, everyone will be able to do that frickin’ complicated thing the stupid band leader had drawn up on the board telling everyone we would do at some halftime somewhere in the distant future.”

 

 

I tell business leaders … get everyone to step to the right … together … and well.

 

 

Not slide.

 

Not shrug and move.

 

Just step.

 

 

 

Look.

 

While I do believe great alignment in an organization more often than not is actually “purposeful fragmentation.”

This is the type of alignment which permits the parts of the organization <departments, divisions, etc.> to maintain some autonomy yet always be grounded in what is ultimately important to the organization. I do believe there are things you want an organization to do fairly commonly and certainly can do if you ask the organization to swing into action.

 

And I do believe it is imperative to get these things down and established as ‘rote behavior’ in the midst of an organizational shift/transformation.

 

 

That said.

 

Far <far> too often when you ask an organization to change a leader does one of two things <a> makes too big an ‘ask’ in the initial change initiative or <b> believes that explaining WHY something should be done, even when done effectively, is the same as having everyone believe they can DO that something.

 

 

I can almost guarantee a business that if they invest the energy putting in place one small thing and figure out how to get the organizational aligned and in step you are then permitted to run it up the flag as an example, proof, that everyone can do the larger thing which you are then going to ask everyone to do.

 

 

Leaders get impatient.

 

They would much prefer getting on with the getting on. Start a full-fledged internal campaign plan of action with massive checks & balances and ‘rah rah’ meetings to build enthusiasm in the transformation steps. And I would argue thatthe biggest incentive to implement desired behavior change is to show them they

Leadership and Synergy Concept

have actually done it <and how cool it was that everyone, the entire organization, pulled together and did what needed to be done>.

 

 

 

That, my friends, is the pull & power of an organization rather than a leadership ‘push’ for change.

 

 

 

Ultimately organizational alignment has several dimensions – physical, emotional and intellectual understanding throughout all levels of the organization <leader to the most junior on-the-ground employee>.

 

But the physical aspect, the doing aspect, is a powerful powerful behavior which has an exponential impact on attitude.

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Written by Bruce