Strategy Gaps and Change Management Failure: An Insight

Mind the gap 123rf com_39898905_sDo you have a strategy-execution gap? This may not be something you would readily admit, even to yourself. But, please pause for a moment and consider the question deeply, seriously and honestly.

I suspect that if you were to do so, you will find the question more difficult than it seems. The term “strategy-execution” implies that:

  • Strategy has two distinct parts – planning and execution; and
  • Execution can be more difficult than planning.

This makes strategy a journey and not a destination. More significantly, though, it is not a journey you control.  And that is why you will find a continuing focus on controls counter-productive. Just as insisting on adherence to a particular, pre-planned route can result in reaching your destination long after you needed to be there, when finding alternative routes would have enabled you to by-pass problems and delays and arrive in time.

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From Change Management to Change Mastery

Mastery 1 123rf.com_50144423_sChange is a fact of life. It is also a major factor in it. Increasingly so. Both the amount of change and the faster pace of change are widely acknowledged. No doubt you feel it yourself. Just imagine what somebody who died only 40-50 years ago would think if they were to come back today (as I sometimes do with my father.) And, in his book “Leading Change”, John Kotter claims that this is not going to slow down soon, but rather speed up! This makes the future daunting. 

Change is supposed to make life easier. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, especially initially. It takes time to familiarise yourself with, and adapt to, the new; let alone master it.  So when change comes fast and furious, proficiency becomes elusive and mastery next to impossible.  This is discouraging, demotivating and stressful. It is no wonder so many change initiatives are unsuccessful.

More frightening, however, is that the sheer volume of change makes it seem highly unlikely the proportion of successful change will improve. (The fact that this sad statistic hasn’t changed in decades, despite greater focus on change management, seems to support this prognosis.) Yet there is a way you can beat the odds. The answer is actually implied in “Leading Change,” but – ironically – has not been fully understood or applied.

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Why leadership is imperative, and how you can unleash it in your organisation.

Leadership not Management 123rf_25893740_s“Management is not leadership.”  Those bald words are from John Kotter’s 2012 updated preface to his 1996 book “Leading Change.” He makes the statement to highlight the theme of the second chapter. Yet the whole sentence reads, “The simple insight that management is not leadership is better understood today, but not nearly as well as needed.” This begs the question, “Why not?”

That question may be easier to ask than answer. After all, “Leading Change” is a worldwide best seller. A book that, in 2011, Time Magazine described as one of the top 25 most influential business management books of all time. Yet, despite its seminal significance and this ostensible influence, it seems that its lessons have not been learned.

But Kotter himself says, “That does not mean executives have learned nothing in the past few decades. They have. But the challenges have been growing as fast, or faster, than their skills.” I wonder.

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Driving Enhanced Customer Experience

Customer Experience 123rf_32845934_sThere has been a quiet revolution over the past decade or two. I am referring to the shift from “Customer Service” to “Customer Experience.”  This shift has been so subtle and unheralded that it has been more evolution than revolution. Yet you cannot doubt that it has taken place.

Only today, I received an invitation to attend “Customer Experience World”, the national customer experience conference. Here, apparently, I can join CXO’s (Customer Experience Officers) and others to listen to a keynote speaker talk about “The importance of customer experience design in an ever-changing Omnichannel world, and the common pitfalls businesses make.”   

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Slip the Surly Bonds of Misguided Management Theory

You cannot help wondering what management lessons need to be learned from the Grenfell Tower Fire disaster. Undoubtedly the Inquiry will highlight many. Yet it appears that there also plenty to be learned from the post-fire management.

Uncuffed 123rf_16888401_sIt seems that every day a fresh incident raises somebody’s ire, and outrage and fury abound as those dealing with the consequences are portrayed as callous, unfeeling or bungling incompetents. In all likelihood some of the criticism is justified, but there seems to no allowance for the unprecedented nature of the catastrophe. For example, is it really realistic to expect all victims to be in permanent new homes just three weeks after the fire?

Goodness knows, identifying and acquiring a new home is difficult for most of us at the best of times. It certainly isn’t something that we normally do in a matter of days. So, why would we expect these poor people to be any different, especially given the difficulty of finding homes in London? So, would you or I do better if we were responsible for dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy?

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Who Didn’t Voice Their Concerns?

Grenfell Fire - Daily Telegraph 4If you think about it, no organisational failure of any magnitude can come as a surprise. Someone, somewhere, was aware that things were not right. Yet those people either did not say anything or their concerns were ignored.   

For instance, remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster? There concerns about the equipment had been raised, but simply ignored by management. Now we have another example.

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Breaking the Barriers to Change

Breaking Barriers 123rf.com 7805513_sChange has been endemic in business for decades. Yet identifying, initiating and implementing it successfully has never been straightforward and results almost invariably fall short of expectations. All too often this failure is attributed to employees’ reluctance to change and thus labelled “change resistance.” This is a phenomenon that is perhaps more easily understood when you consider the non-business changes we are encountering now.

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A Key to Optimising Your Human Capital

The perpetual balancing act between selfishness and selflessness, or self-interest and group-interest, is evolutionarily fundamental. So much so that it has been described as “The Paradox of Being Human.” Thus, while I have written about it before, I have not stopped thinking about it and it remains integral to everything I do. Recently, I have been seeking a way to portray it more effectively, and, in the spirit of “a picture being worth a thousand words”, more graphically.

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Strategy and Your People: How to Sustain Success

Striding towards success 14815469_sRecently I came across an article in the July-August 2015 Harvard Business Review entitled, “People before Strategy.” (I am not sure the link will work, but you can try clicking here to read it for yourself.) I was particularly struck by the sub-title, “A New Role for the CHRO”, for my immediate response was “How many organisations have a CHRO?”

I guess to some extent that is the intended response. Certainly the useful summary table provided in the article infers this.

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The Power of Ownership

Ownership 33960354_s“Mine!”  Who hasn’t heard a young child say that? The concept of ownership is one of our most primitive senses.  Indeed, I once read that the difference between North American and South American history, (both colonised around the same time) could be attributed to the encouragement of land ownership stimulating the greater development of the North.    

Be that as it may, you would have some difficulty arguing against the idea that ownership is an integral part of capitalism. The concepts of limited liability and the lasting, legal persona of the corporation would not have been possible, or nearly as successful, without distributed ownership and the amelioration of risk it created. So much so, that you might even argue that ownership is the heart of capitalism. Which is why it is strange that so little has been done to make employees owners. Even stranger – and certainly ironic – is that efforts to encourage this are sometimes seen as socialism!  

In fact, making your employees co-owners of your business has to be the ultimate in capitalism. Why? Because it also gives them a stake in the outcome. This makes it more personal. It gives them the pride of possession. Now, instead of simply being ‘servants of the organisation’ they become ‘partners in our organisation.’

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Shape Sustained Organisational Success by Building it into Your DNA

Shared Values & Common Purpose11663318_sIn 1991 Charles Handy concluded that the basic purpose of an organisation is to perpetuate itself within the context of the environment in which it operates. You might not have thought about it in quite that way, but that conviction encapsulates and drives everything you do as a business leader. It shapes the way you think, the way you act and the way you expect others to think and act. That’s perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless spelling it out provides food for thought. Not least because it demands a long-term outlook.  

Most business leaders will plead that they are thinking about the long-term and will cite all their strategic planning efforts as evidence of this. Yet, notwithstanding this, there seems to be increasing consensus that focus is too much on the short-term. All too often corporate failure seems to come as a major surprise: whether after a long-lingering painful demise that drained energy and resources, without achieving anything and failing to avoid the inevitable, or suddenly, as with the failures that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. This is subjective territory and open to discussion beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that we need a more effective way of addressing the longer-term measures of organisational performance.

Here too Handy once again gives us some pointers as to how. He said, “The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.” I call it ‘Love at Work.’ But whatever you call it, it stems from people – your employees, your customers, and your suppliers – and the way you treat them – and Science supports this!  

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