Leaders are under relentless pressure to improve organisational capability to deliver more with less; increasing pace and agility locally, and with partners and suppliers, to find different operating models to increase efficiency and deliver better value to customers. But as Einstein famously said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” And yet it seems that many still do make this assumption.
I have become more curious about the practical impact of change and transition. Here are few things that I have found in working with senior leaders that were keen to implement change.
There is often a focus upon reordering, restructuring, and other related mechanical actions that drain resources, time, and effort away from the capacity needed to tackle the real challenge- culture change! I’ve also noticed the significant impact that history has upon an organisation’s capability to really move on, to change habits and behaviours; and generate a systemic shift through enhanced employee engagement that leads to improved organisational performance.
It’s critical that you get knowledge that helps you to understand past history. It will inhibit progress if you do not pay attention to it.
A major change in the nature and shape of an organisation can lead to a failure to transfer or a loss of what I think of as ‘organisational memory’. This can have a major impact upon the functioning of part or all of a business going forward. Such history can haunt organisations for years. It can appear more like folklore, where no one left in the organisation knows the true story and yet the legacy of the issue remains in the psyche and impacts upon current day decision making. The significance is that the original informal governance frameworks are largely invisible, and are highly impactful upon the capability of the organisation to become more agile and high performing.
As a leader getting to understand the folklore in your business will inform how you go about making the change.
It’s easy for leaders to make assumptions often based upon their previous experience. A lack of true understanding about what is making the organisation work in the way that it does means that tinkering with structure is unlikely to bring about systemic change. I was recently reminded of the Peter Drucker quote ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.
In my experience all too often leaders see an organisation in the third person. I recall a conversation with a senior executive in which he said, “when will they do something about this, it’s not acceptable”. My challenge question was simple. Who are they? After all he was a member of the senior team. What contribution did he need to make in tackling the issue? It was an uncomfortable light bulb moment in a coaching conversation.
Change is an emergent process. The key is engagement. A leader creates opportunities for employees to connect with their colleagues, managers’, and the goals of the wider organisation. Supporting the creation of an environment where employees are motivated to want to connect with their work and really care about doing a good job is business critical. Employee curiosity will generate continuous improvement and enable sustainable change within the business. Rewiring how leaders think about the challenges ahead is the key to future success.