In earlier posts that began with The Reinvention of Management: Part 1, I noted that current management practices represent a set of economic, social and political problems of the first order, which cannot be resolved by a single fix.
Instead, a whole host of business leaders and writers, including Umair Haque, John Hagel, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison, Rod Collins, Ranjay Gulati and Carol Sanford are exploring a fundamental rethinking of the basic tenets of management aimed at creating organizations that are capable of continuous innovation. Among the most important changes being proposed are five basic shifts in management practice:
- Part 1: Overview
- Part 2: Delighting the client
- Part 3: From controller to enabler
- Part 4. From bureaucracy to dynamic linking
- Part 5: From value to values.
- Part 6: From command to conversation
In this final post in the series, I explore in more detail the specific practices needed to implement the transition implicit in these five fundamental shifts.
Set aside traditional change management
In the first place, before heading pell-mell into the implementation of these five radical shifts in management, one has to set aside the traditional mode of implementing change.
If you have mastered the arguments of this series so far, you will know not to proceed by an eight-step top-down hierarchical rollout of a program, embodying a preconceived idea, articulated in some back room by outsiders, and then imposed with one-way communications that tell people what to do.
You will know that that kind of thinking and acting is precisely what has brought us to the current impasse. You will know that it must be a process that gives due respect to the interests not only of the organization but also of those doing the work and of those for whom the work is done. You will intuit that communications will be interactive and respectful of the individuals involved while giving due attention to productivity and innovation.
And you will be certain of one thing: that radical change management will not be a simple recipe that you can wrap up and take back to your organization to apply without modification tomorrow morning, with any expectation of success. You know that you will have to create a story of your own—one that fits your own context—its possibilities and its constraints. You also know that you will have to adapt the story on the fly as conditions shift.
In one sense, all it takes is a change of heart.At the same time, as Rachel Maddow has noted on MSNBC: there is not such thing as an innovation fairy that will magically make innovation happen. You actually have to go out into the workplace and make it happen.
In doing this, it can be helpful to know the practices that have been successful in the past in reflecting and implementing this change of heart.
Practices that implement the transition
In previous implementation of the five shifts, the following practices have been helpful:
1. Make the change happen organically: Change begins when a single individual takes responsibility for the future and decides to make it happen. The individual may be the CEO. In a large organization, it is more typically someone in middle management. The individual begins inspiring other people. In turn, they become champions and inspire still others.
2. Launch a small high-performance team: A small high-performance team will be needed to inspire and guide implementation. Dutiful or representative performance won’t get the job done. This will be a group that is creative and energized, trusts one another, passionately believes in the cause and is willing to do whatever it takes. Dutiful or representative performance won’t get the job done. This will be a group that is creative and energized, trusts one another, and is willing to do whatever it takes.
3. Do it quickly: The change happens quickly or not all. Once organizational change takes off, the process will be viral in nature. The idea is either growing, spreading, and propagating itself, or dying and de-energizing people and spawning new constraints. A top-down process that is grinding it out, step by step, unit by unit, is usually generating antibodies that lead to mediocre implementation or total failure.
4. Let the change idea evolve: The change idea itself will steadily evolve. This is not a matter of crafting a vision and then rolling it out across the organization. This is about continuously adapting the idea to the evolving circumstances of the organization. As the organization and everyone in it adapts the story of change to their own context, each individual comes to own it. The process of adaptation never ends.
5. Run the change process on human passion: The change process will run on human passion—a firm belief in the clarity and worth of the idea and the courage to stand up and fight for it. No template or detailed rollout plan can inspire the energy, passion, and excitement that are needed to make deep change happen.
6. Focus the passion: It will be focused, disciplined passion. This is not an approach where anything goes. There will be a tight focus on the goal and continuing alertness to head off the diffusion of energy into related or alternative goals. Progress is assessed and adjustments made based on what has been learned. There will be systematic feedback on what value is being added. There will be freedom to create, but within clearly delineated, adjustable limits.
7. Get outside help but don’t rely on it: Outside help will be used but not depended on. Intellectual energy is generated by cognitive diversity and interactions with people with different backgrounds and ways of looking at the world. The external advice will be received, evaluated, and adapted to local needs. In the process of adaptation, the idea will become owned. Things are not done simply because outsiders say so; they will be done because they make sense for this context.
8. The top of the organization must support it and be supported: Although implementation cannot be accomplished by top-down directives or rollout programs, the support of the very top of the organization is key to creating the umbrella for change, for setting direction and heading off the inevitable threats to the idea. Yet the top alone cannot make it happen. In a large organization, the top will need many others to communicate the idea throughout the organization in an authentic way.
9. The idea is more important than any individual: Top-down change programs typically die when the manager leaves. The replacement manager sweeps clean what has gone before. By contrast, when a change has taken root in an organic fashion, the idea continues to live because it is owned by wide array of people.
10. Proceed through conversations: One person starts talking to and inspiring other people, who in turn have the courage, determination, and communication skills to fire up fresh groups of people to imagine and implement a different future. In turn, they become champions and inspire others.
11. Establish a beachhead: All of the successful large-scale implementations had at least some people on hand who had seen it and done it before and could say, “I’ve seen this work!” Creating a beachhead of such people is thus an important early step.
12. Begin in a safe space: In the first few iterations, bumps and bruises are to be expected. Until people get the hang of it, some missteps are likely.. It is therefore prudent to try it out in the first instance in a relatively safe and low-profile space.
13. Agree on a common terminology: When fundamentally different ideas are being introduced, confusions and misunderstandings are inevitable. To the extent that a common terminology can be defined, made easily accessible, and consistently used, the transition will be easier.
14. Communicate the Idea through stories: Springboard stories communicate the spirit of an idea and generate new stories in the minds of the listeners, which drive them into action and spark more stories that are told to others. Rehearse your story before you get to making a presentation. Be ready when the opportunity calls.
15. Practice total openness. Just as the workplace depends on radical transparency, so does the change process itself. For example in the transition at Salesforce.com, all of the daily meetings were held in a public place so that everyone could see how things were progressing. A task board was displayed on the public lunch room wall so that everyone had access to what was going on. The willingness to share information with everyone enabled people to adapt on a daily basis to what was happening.
16. Generate dramatic surges in progress: As Seth Kahan explains in his book,Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out (Jossey-Bass, 2010) creating high-profile face-to-face events can accelerate progress. Creating gatherings that bring players together in high-value experiences can push the transition forward in leaps and bounds.
17. Work sustainable hours: Although occasional crises may require extended working periods, regularly working long hours is highly unproductive and leads to low-quality output. Long working hours are a sign of serious management malfunction.
18. Implement the five shifts as an integrated package: None of the shifts is individually new. What is new is implementing all five shifts together at the same time. For instance, implementing client focus and staff empowerment will come to grief if they are not coordinated by dynamic linking or if communications take place in a command-and-control mode. Nor will the change likely to be successful if it is pursued in an organization where there is a single-minded focus on efficiency and making money for shareholders, rather than instilling the values of client focus, radical transparency and continuous improvement throughout the organization.
In the end, the gains are accomplished by a transition from a focus on things (goods, services, money) to a focus on people (customers and employees). A successful transformation requires the organization to adopt a people-centered goal, a people-centered role for managers, a people-centered coordination mechanism, people-centered values and people-centered communication–so as to focus the firm on the people who are its customers.
To learn more:
To learn more about reinventing management so as to spark continuous innovation, read the whole series:
- Reinventing Management: Part 1: Overview
- Reinventing Management: Part 2: Delighting the client
- Reinventing Management: Part 3: From controller to enabler
- Reinventing Management: Part 4. From bureaucracy to dynamic linking
- Reinventing Management: Part 5: From value to values.
- Reinventing Management: Part 6: From command to conversation
- This post: Part 7: Implementing the transition
And read books that the discuss the transition, like The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati, Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins or The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford.
For a comprehensive review of the principles and practices involved in reinventing management to elicit continuous innovation, read my book: The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century.