In our previous blog we discussed a key mindset change required in visionary leaders to pursue big visions. In this blog, we’ll discuss the four key areas that visionary leaders must address to identify the breakthroughs required to achieve their big visions.
Large, complex change – especially transformational change – impacts people and processes across boundaries (boundaries of role, function, process, and organization). Organizational transformation demands cross-boundary support among your top executives; this support is a non-negotiable requirement of success.
As CEO, it is your job to create alignment, commitment, and support in your top executive team to ensure they are individually and collectively doing all that is necessary to make your company transformation successful. This is key to your role as the sponsor of this level of change.
Virtually all core functions in organizations are operated as strategic disciplines (e.g., finance, supply chain, marketing and sales, human resources, IT). This means they have consistent practices and protocols, common ways of making decisions and managing information. These disciplines are crucial to having the business function optimally, and reliably, to be able to deliver results.
One of the costliest mistakes in leading change is for leaders to ask something of the people in their organization and then not do it themselves. Walking the talk of change is not just a nice phrase; it has teeth! Organizational change, especially when it is transformational, sticks to the degree that leaders model it. In transformational change, the “Go change them!” (“and not me mandate!”) just won’t fly.
Research shows that over 60% of transformational change initiatives fail.1 Not adequately addressing culture is one of the primary reasons why. Transformational change often fails because leaders under-attend to their organization’s culture or are not successful in shifting their old culture. Either of these can prevent the desired state from taking hold.
Adoption of a change initiative can be blocked by staunch cultural norms. If leaders see change as strictly “organizational,” and ignore the human and cultural dimensions, it is a recipe for failure. As Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Sadly, multimillion dollar technology installations often don’t deliver their intended ROI because the people (culture) do not embrace the new ways of working that the technology demands.
One of the most important variables in leading transformational change initiatives is having an accurate scope of change—what needs to change and how big is the impact. When change leaders can’t see all the implications of what they are asking of the organization, it is common that the scope they identify is too small or only addresses the formal content of the change and leaves out the people dynamics essential to success. Both are essential to plan, resource, and support.
After more than three decades of supporting executives in organizations undergoing transformational change, we are in a unique position to recognize common mistakes in how change is being led across industries. Many of our clients ask how we can so readily name the challenging dynamics they face without having worked inside their organizations. The answer is, these are common mistakes, and they are not unique to any one organization.
Photo Credit: Rich Faber
The absence of an overall initiative alignment and integration strategy results in change being run through multiple, separate, or competing sub-projects. It also results in initiatives being led as independent efforts, even when many may interface or impact one another or the same parts of the organization.This demonstrates a lack of sufficient alignment and integration among all the changes required for an overall change program. Without it, leading transformational change can be more like herding cats. What is needed is making them all a part of one unified effort with an overall change strategy that integrates outcomes, plans, resources, and pace.
What is Organizational Culture?
An organization’s culture is its collective mindset. The patterns of widely shared (often unconscious) assumptions, beliefs, and values that form the basis of people’s ways of being, relating, and working, as well as the organization’s interaction with and success in its environment.
In other words, an organization’s culture shapes everything that takes place in that environment. How people interact, how things are done daily, and how projects are managed is all a direct reflection of organizational culture.
What Makes a Good Leader? Going from Unconscious to Conscious Leadership
Achieving organizational breakthrough requires significant transformation, and leading organizational transformation requires certain qualities that make a good leader.
These qualities of a leader are influenced by the level of outcome the leader is seeking. Leaders who seek outcomes not too far out of their organization’s current comfort zone of performance can lead as they always have. But leaders pursuing breakthrough require what we call “conscious leadership qualities.” The bigger the outcome leaders pursue, the larger the challenges they face, and the more their leadership qualities must bring out the best in themselves and others, and enable them to deal with the complexities that the big challenges entail.
What is Your Definition of Success?
Each of us, as leaders, wants our organizations to succeed. We may define our success differently – profitability, earnings, market share, year-over-year growth, customer satisfaction, or product innovation – but we all have a set of metrics we pursue.
What is your definition of success? And even more importantly, how far are you reaching outside your organization’s current comfort zone of capability and performance? Your level of “reach” is critical because it sets the stage for how much you can achieve.