Can We Really Manage the Pace of Change?
“If traditional managers want their organizations to have the capacity to change as fast as the world around them, they will need to embrace the new reality that managing great change is only possible if they change how they manage.”
– Rod Collins
It’s a game-changing question. And traditional top-down leadership is no longer the answer. At OI Global Partners, we believe that “change is the new black” and certainly the new normal. The companies that will not only survive but thrive are those that can shift their thinking away from “change management” to “changing the way we manage,” allowing them to adjust to this new normal.
A few crucial tips for making the shift:
- Build Trust Now. Without this foundational “Behavior of a Cohesive Team,” none of the rest is even truly possible. As Patrick Lencione insists, “Trust can only happen when team members are willing to be completely vulnerable with one another. There is confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around each other.”
- Create Team Agreements, then stick to them. Team agreements go beyond fluffy value words framed on the walls of the office. They pinpoint specific ways team members agree to behave and what the team agrees to do when any one of the members falls short in upholding the agreements. This drives accountability away from “top-down” management and towards peer-to-peer responsibility. If there are one or two bad seeds who consistently hold the rest of the team back, having a peer or two call them out and possibly stop inviting them into various projects is likely to be a very powerful management tool.
- Insist On and Reward Collaboration. No one person is as smart as the collective whole, and, after all, you hired smart people to get great work done. Get them together, give some direction, and get out of their way to get great work accomplished. Rod Collins, author of Wiki Management: A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborative World, describes it in this way: “Top-down hierarchies are designed on the premise that an organization’s intelligence resides in a select number of star performers who leverage their expertise through the power to direct and control the work of others. Self-organized peer-to-peer networks, on the other hand, are built upon the principle that an organization’s intelligence resides in the diversity of its members who leverage their collective knowledge through the power to connect and collaborate with each other.” In short, think network and lattice organization charts versus the linear top-down models of the past.
- Sharpen the Organization’s Focus on the Customer. I had a conversation just last week with a client about the major shifts needed in her organization. When they started with fewer than 50 employees producing a radically different product, the supply-chain mentality worked well and profits soared because the business model at that time was built simply to fulfill the huge demand for the new-fangled product. Supply-chain-driven organizations, however, focus on producing 5 million widgets a day and shipping them around the globe within 24 hours. But if the widgets aren’t the right color or don’t fit with customers’ existing widgets, who cares how many and how fast? In our culture of “change is the new normal,” the customer’s power of choice is king (or queen) and ultimately supersedes the organization’s power to produce. The nimble organizations are those that build their people operations and systems to respond to and even stay ahead of fickle customer wants.
Let us hear from you. What is your organization doing to change the way it manages versus continuing to implement “change management” initiatives?
Meredith Masse, Senior Vice President at Innovative Career Consulting, the OI Global Partner based in Denver and Cincinnati, is on a personal mission to create “best places to work” filled with engaged employees and “follower-worthy” managers and leaders.