IT Management

These constructs may have worked in the past, but they won’t work now. The assumptions are no longer valid.

Process-driven leadership: Too often, processes drive people in an organization, not the other way around. Success is defined by a count of “things accomplished” rather than looking at the larger picture. When processes are statically defined with the goal of providing clarity and consistency across the company, adaptability and resiliency to change are impacted. People and their ingenuity and creativity are the soul of successful business. They should remain in the driver’s seat.

The Solutions

Making sense of change: Expectation shapes one’s reality, so this is where openness and information sharing help. Letting go of hidden agendas and the “right” answer helps people come to grips, in their own time, with a new idea. If we pay attention and focus, we can learn to manage our reaction to our normal brain chemistry over time. For many, understanding and expecting a hijack is enough to help them manage it. For example, having a clear plan and timely résumé can help tame the anxiety created by the chemicals triggered by the amygdala when a layoff is announced. But all this takes time and patience. One way managers can help is to sketch out a goal with a broad brush, so each team member can create for himself or herself a plan for changes they’re willing to make. This helps them take responsibility for their behaviors and reactions.

Just learning how to work in a new system isn’t enough. Marc Chouinard, principal partner, Strategy-Driven Performance, has helped many companies beat the statistical odds and succeed with change initiatives. He notes that, “Until employees absolutely believe they ‘need’ the new skill to be successful, they won’t use it—because it isn’t yet part of the success strategies they use, day in and day out, to be successful at what they do.” (See Chouinard’s article, “How to Eliminate the 70% Failure Rate of All Organizational Improvement Initiatives … and Ensure Desired Changes Take Place and are Sustainable,” Peers Think Tank, 2007.) The lack of the right organizational structure, vision, and processes can make it difficult, if not impossible, for change to occur.

Results-oriented, people-centered leadership: Chouinard explains that to become results-oriented, managers need to move beyond looking simply at processes and examine how “doing things the way we’ve always done them” is stifling new ideas that are part of sustaining innovation. In his article, “People-Centered Business Continuity and Resiliency as a Competitive Advantage” (Strategy-Driven Performance, 2008), Chouinard observes that to ensure an initiative such as SOA really works, employees need:

• A high level of self-efficacy: a belief they have the resources and capabilities to meet the demands of their job
• An opportunity to succeed on two levels: inner (belief that this change is essential to your personal survival) and outer (that the organization supports this; that processes and people don’t preclude the change)
• A clear understanding of the vision and objectives
• A clear understanding of their role
• The responsibility and power to actually accomplish these tasks.

To foster successful change, management must consider the organizational components (processes, systems, policies, reward systems, etc.) to see what might block transition to an SOO.

Quantum mechanical model of organizations: Writer and management consultant Margaret J. Wheatley studied both organizations and physics and discovered some strong parallels. (See her 1999 book, Leadership and the New Science—Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.) In Wheatley’s mind, the boxes and lines, hierarchies, and silos no longer work for organizations, if, in fact, they were ever the right answer. Today, in a rapidly changing world, the limits of this kind of structure are apparent; it works no better at creating successful organizations than do Newtonian mechanics explain subatomic behavior.

Wheatley believes quantum mechanics offer a better way to represent how organizations and people work best. Quantum mechanics look at entire systems, focusing primarily on relationships between entities, not the entities in isolation. It speaks not just to the subatomic world, but many other applications. Holistic health draws on it, as does Gaia theory (James Lovelock) where the earth is really a self-regulating system. In this model, chaos and disruption become allies to an organization. Planning expert T.J. Cartwright refers to chaos as “order without predictability.” Disequilibrium is the base condition necessary for growth. Balance and stability equal inertia; it takes more motive power to start an engine than to keep it running. Yet most companies are about maintaining order and control and responding to fear.

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