If You Don’t Know Where You Are, You Won’t Know Where to Go

There’s a greater awareness today of the conditions for successful change and significant reasons why organizational change fails and then fails some more. We’ve shared with you ‘the why‘, ‘what it takes’ but another question exists – where do you start the change process? The simple answer is start where your people are. You must know where you are today – thoroughly understand your current situation.

What do the people think?

What do they believe?

What’s ‘normal’ look like – how  we do things around here?

What do they assume, hope and fear?

Your current culture is the stepping off point to begin any change initiative.  Your normal culture likes the status quo of keeping everything the same. It’s a great record of what’s worked well in the past. It’s comfortable – even when it’s toxic. Why? Because your people know what it is. It preserves itself as people copy each other to belong to ‘the group.’ Do you have the stamina to withstand a change initiative? If you’re not sure, then this article is for you!

To take a step forward and move toward a different future, you must understand what your present position is, what you’d like to take with you, what may be holding you back and what your desired future state may look like. Otherwise, expect more of the same.  You can’t expect a traditional mature operation to behave like Google, nor should you want it to! You wouldn’t expect Costco to adopt the risk behaviors of Amazon either. Stop trying to be the next Southwest Airlines if it doesn’t it fit your organization’s DNA. Your best next step is to meet them where they are and lead them through the why, what and how. You know their fears and concerns. Solve their objections, the disadvantages, and guide them across the stepping stones through the troubled waters. If that’s not their thing, then teach them how to swim. Some of you are more comfortable taking it step-by-step and some of you are more comfortable taking a leap forward. The point is to understand where you are and where your people are. Lead towards where they are!

Be Relevant 

Whether the change is moving towards innovation and staying up to date with technology and the global market, culture matters. Blackberry, Toys’r Us and TiVo are three of global graveyard who failed to cross the river of change and adapt. Some were compacent, some fell asleep at the wheel and others nose blind to the hierarchy saw the oncoming tran wreck and had ideas for solutions. Yet, their leaders were so egotistical, ignored them so that nothing would save them from their ultimate doom.  In some cases, leadership culture was the roadblock where new insights and ideas couldn’t get through the layers. Your culture could be open, curious, and innovative. But is it muted by managers who think they know best. Avoid managing  business as usual and miss the boat.

Adopt A Methodology 

‘If the change is implementing a new software building approach, culture matters. IT-consultant Christiaan Verwijs explains how implementing Scrum (the agile IT-development method) is not so much a matter of changing your method but changing your culture. You can go through the motions and push people to use Scrum, but it won’t last when you don’t truly embrace Scrum’s underlying values and beliefs, such as valuing mistakes as an opportunity to learn, and valuing the team’s collective intelligence above that of individuals. If the culture stays risk-averse, no one will volunteer to share helpful mistakes.’ Find a methodology that aligns with your competencies.

Merge For Profit 

If the change is a merger that looks great on paper, given your competitive market, culture matters. Think of the troublesome mergers between Daimler-Chrysler, Novell and WordPerfect, HP and Compaq, and others. I see this everyday! Most recently a large health care conglomerate is gobbling up highly successful regional long-term care operations and dumping them into the giant umbrella. One company is sales-focused yet lacks some disciplines to be operationally astute. Their new ‘partner’ is another operation that’s weak on the business development and retention side. I shared at a key board meeting where the merger was approved that life was going to be different going forward because they’re very different cultures. Ninety-days later, they call me and say, “I underestimated how different… It was beyond certainly my abilities to figure out how to blend the old ways and the new ways let alone a culture we need.”

Start The Journey

There’s no more need to beating a dead horse business case for change. This is why we personalize each engagement. You want a map of the territory before starting any journey of change. You need us to help you become aware of the current position, define the desired destination, and take off in the right direction well prepared. We both want positive change to be sustainable in the good time and more specifically when ‘it’ hits the fan so your people and organization can reach the desired destination. That’s the business case for working with organizational culture to help positive change succeed. If you don’t work with culture, it will work you over.

Want to read more, go here…

Why It Didn’t Work the Last Time

How It Can Fail, Again

Let’s Burn It Down and Start Over

Let’me leave you with a few questions to ask yourself or those close to your situation:

  • Where in work have you met people where they are?

  • Where are you pushing people to change we’ve discussed?

  • What would you do differently now to meet your people where they are now?

Scott Spector is Founder and Managing Partner of Brookestone Associates, a strategy execution and culture influencing organization focused on change initiatives. Contact him here or call +1 205-482-2177. 

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