Your organization is growing—what a wonderful thing!  Needs are changing, more employees are needed, and you are continually re-focusing to keep the vision clear.  What exciting times.

However, be sure not to get tunnel vision about where you are going and what you really have as resources.

Suppose you are engaging in a new marketing campaign. You need everything from script writers to artists to web masters.  You have an existing web masters and writer. You determine that you need an artist.  So you go outside your organization looking for just the artist you need. This can be expensive when you add up the expenses to recruit, hire and train that new employee.  Meanwhile in the IT department wiling away her time is an aspiring artist just waiting for an opportunity like this.

What was the true cost of not looking within?

Try this one on.  There are two fulfillment companies with their own warehouses and delivery fleet.  Thanks to growing online ordering the companies they contract with for deliveries are expanding.  Both companies need drivers.  Company A goes outside to recruit a local driver with a CDL license.  Time and money later they finally secure a driver to train and engage in the company culture—more time and money spent.  Company B puts a notice out first inside the company.  As luck would have it there is a young father in the warehouse with a CDL license who had been turning down opportunities because he could not find a local driving position.

Who made out better here?  Admittedly the second scenario requires a bit of luck, however the answer is always “no” if you never ask.   The first scenario is very close to one I experienced in an international company I once worked for.

Do you know the hidden talents of your employees?  Have you ever asked?  I suggest you put together an employee talent survey just to know who is on the bus, even if they don’t have a seat at the moment.  That seat might be developing for them as you develop the company.

Organizational Change – It Really Comes Down to Two Things

Organizational Change

Amy Swenson recently asked a question in the Human Resources (HR) & Talent Management group regarding why over 70% of organizational change initiatives fail and if anyone has a methodology that works.

It’s a great question. However, the answers are not a secret. Some great books have been written on the topic.

So why have the statistics not changed that much?

Organizations are systems perfectly designed to create their current results.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Organizations are systems — systems of people, processes, and tools. Those people have an acceptable or standard way of interacting with one another called “culture.” They have ways of interacting with their processes and tools called “Standard Operating Procedures.” Each of these has it’s own inertia. The longer the organization has been around, the more inertia it has. Remember Jim Collin’s flywheel from Good to Great? This is the flywheel.

Another analogy I like to use is an aircraft carrier. It is a huge piece of machinery. It requires a massive staff to maintain and run. Roles are clearly defined in a nice kanban manner through uniforms and vest colors. Operating procedures are highly rehearsed and executed with fine precision.

People inside and outside the organization have adapted to survive in the system of your organization. They understand how to navigate the nuances of the organization’s culture and operating procedures, and the organization reinforces their behaviors through lack of punishment and sometimes reward.

Most change initiatives in organizations are the equivalent of ramming the side of that aircraft carrier with a rowboat. There is little if any noticeable impact on the carrier and it just about kills the people in the rowboat.

I’ve worked with dozens of organizations across my 20-year career. Whether a change initiative succeeded or failed, I noticed the reasons fell into two buckets — Lack of Clarity and Lack of Organizational Reinforcement. You will notice that the second contributes to the first.

Organizational clarity starts with a cohesive leadership team. By “cohesive” I mean a leadership team with no air gaps between them regarding the purpose, behaviors, and objectives of the organization. If the leadership team is not on the same page and committed, then their is no hope for the organization.

Once the leadership team is on the same page, then they can engage the proper stakeholders and create clarity around what is changing, why it is changing, and when it is changing. This part is not too difficult.

However, this next step is where many organizations stumble. Remember the system? We’ve now got to modify the system to reinforce the change. This may mean that some people that just won’t get on board after much listening and coaching need to go. That’s tough when it’s someone you like or an otherwise great employee. It definitely means that reward systems and processes need to be revamped to be aligned to reinforce the change. It also means that there need to be reinforcement mechanisms in place to inspect the new process and disciplinary action steps to handle non-compliance.

If that sounds hard, it is. Change is difficult. That’s why most organizations fail at it.

By the way, I still have not shared with you the two keys to success in change transformation. While the things I mentioned are critical, it really comes down to this: uncommon discipline and persistence.