New book looks at reasons change fails
To institute change, look for "champions"
BY CAROL C. BRADLEY
Despite all the planning, expense and good intentions, 50 to 75 percent of efforts to improve the culture and productivity of an organization will fail, say Martin Klubeck, Michael Langthorne and Donald Padgett.
The three ND staff members joined forces to write "Why Organizations Struggle So Hard To Improve So Little: Overcoming Organizational Immaturity."
Many organizations suffer from immaturity-they are incapable of enterprise-wide change, argue Klubeck, OIT strategy and planning consultant; Langthorne, OIT project manager; and Donald Padgett, OIT program manager for strategic initiatives and principal in the business Play Like a Champion Today.
"Statistics show that most organizational improvement efforts fail to achieve what they intend," says Langthorne. "It's a huge waste of money and time. And it tears down trust, and makes people less likely to participate in future improvement efforts. What pushed us to do the book was figuring out how to get past these kinds of problems."
Klubeck says, "Organizations typically bring in consultants, who attempt to force change and no matter how badly they fail, they have a ready excuse...they blame the leader. They claim the leader wasn't committed enough, didn't ‘walk the walk' or ‘take ownership.' But in our experience, it's rare that leaders aren't committed. It's their reputation on the line. They look good if it succeeds, bad if it fails-of course they're committed."
So who's to blame? No one.
Here's the hard part: Regardless of what consultants, or methodologies are chosen, chances are good the efforts will ultimately fail. The premise of the book is simple: Organization-wide change efforts will fail because an immature organization is incapable of this level of change.
The book includes a simple maturity self-assessment tool, and an organizational health survey. The two provide a good look at an organization's maturity and health. There are great potential savings if leaders can identify organizational immaturity before they embark on improvement efforts.
One barrier to change is the acceptance of-and reliance on-"superheroes," Langthorne says. "They're called upon to solve problems, and resolve crises. But this creates an atmosphere of information hoarding.There is no benefit to the hero in sharing or teaching others.
Dealing with organizational immaturity calls for a different way of thinking.
To successfully change an organization, you must first understand that you CAN'T change the organization-particularly if the organization is addicted to superheroes, "crisis management" and maintaining the status quo.
The real goal of any change effort must be making the change stick.
"It would be great if leadership got out of people's way" Langthorne says. "Leaders should identify champions (people who have a lot of energy around specific, targeted improvements) and then give them the resources they need when they need them, encourage them, motivate them and reward them for their successes. Instead of dictating an unrealistic change, become a coach-work to get the best out of your ‘players'. Leaders have to lead, versus manage."
The simple formula Klubeck, Langthorne and Padgett suggest is this: Look for champions, "the ones who are already making change happen in their small area."
If you care about the organization, find others who care-who have passion. Those are your champions. Help them institute change within their sphere of influence, and propagate change by "infecting" others with results and passion.
Small successes are still successes-and the improvements will help the organization move toward embracing broader changes in the future.
One good thing about immature organizations, they add, is that there are lots of opportunities to improve...just not all at once.
NDWorks, Vol 7, No. 19, Reprinted by permission, Copyright 2010 University of Notre Dame