Many people say they would like to make their organizations more agile, but few organizations have a formalized strategy to do so.
For many leaders, the planning and management methods mastered on their way up the ladder were designed and effective in a different time, when change moved at a much slower pace. Others, as noted in our previous post, might lean more toward the entrepreneurial side, exhibiting high-levels of vision and enthusiasm, but not the team-building or other managerial skills necessary to develop a truly agile environment; and others may simply fail to stay the course.
To gain agility, today’s leaders must incorporate these four “agility enablers” into their operating model:
- Fast and effective information flows so their enterprise can emulate Wayne Gretzky and “just skate to where the puck is going to be.”
- Strong leadership and teamwork to turn insight into action; people at all levels must be engaged, involved, and accepting of ongoing change.
- Relentlessly streamlined and simplified processes in order to handle the more rapid pace of implementation. If the processes that comprise the value stream are held together by patches, expediting, and human vigilance, or are full of inspection, rework, delays, over-specification, redundancies, excess inventory, complexity, etc. it will be very difficult to execute the necessary changes.
- Flexible investments, as acceleration of change makes acquired assets obsolete faster, so both the investment and hiring strategy should reflect the need for flexibility.
Several previous posts have focused on the importance of change, and on the fact that effective leadership is about driving change. The ability to anticipate, lead and manage change is a critical indicator of organizational success and is a necessary component of continuous improvement.
But, as we’ve also noted, people tend to resist change. It is uncomfortable, and tends to bring about varying degrees of fear, uncertainty and doubt – or, as noted in a recent post, a range of challenging emotions.
A heightened awareness of the “normal” reactions to change can help leaders more easily manage change and lead people toward acceptance in less time. For example, when a major change is initiated it is common for members of the workforce think or wonder:
- The way we’ve always done it is fine… why do we need to change?
- Why wasn’t I consulted?
- Why do I need to change my way of doing things?
- What have I done wrong? I’ve done nothing wrong!
- How will this affect me…?
- They don’t know what they’re doing!
- This will never work…
- What are they trying to achieve?
- Will I be able to adapt/fit in?
Recognizing that the above-listed questions are more the rule rather than the exception, leaders and managers might be able to address the true concerns of their workforce and implement change and improvement initiatives more efficiently.
We will share additional thoughts on leading and managing change in our next post… in the meantime, maybe you would like to share some success stories about how your organization has been able to effectively present and manage change?
Past posts have focused upon various aspects of change, with common threads being that people tend to resist change (so leaders must “sell it!”), and that change is a constant part of continuous improvement and long-term success.
In a recent discussion about whether or not it is truly possible to sustainably change the culture of a business and its workforce, a number of interesting perspectives were exchanged that support the above-listed threads.
Here are just a few:
- “I believe that it begins at the top, however that must continue so that the new culture begins to take shape at all levels. The important thing to understand that culture change is an evolutionary process since it involves changing the thinking processes in addition to any operational process changes that need to be made.”
- “I do believe with the right will, structure and drive at senior management level it is possible [to sustainably change an organization’s culture…]. But, can you change every individual and encourage them to walk the company line? I don’t believe you can and I think it is naive to think so. There will be people at all levels who cannot adjust. It brings to mind the old Dolly Parton quote, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
- “Yes, it can be done. But I have seen that leadership and staff often delay changes when they have the option. One way to avoid this tendency to procrastinate and to accelerate change is to introduce a large disruption to the status quo, such as change in top leaders, massive resource change (e.g., funds – up or down), or competitive pressures in products, distribution methods, etc.”