Ensuring Organizational Success and ProgressBy: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC
All organizations change. New employees join and others leave, technology changes, clients change, the people themselves change, and the services or products tend to change. But not all organizations progress.
Progress means a purposeful planned change towards desired goals or objectives. An organization progresses if it heads in the right direction and its intentions become reality.
But your organization will progress only if both its plans for progress are good and these plans are successfully implemented. Your initiatives for change or what you want to have happen are obviously critical for progress. High quality plans usually head you in the right direction and poor plans will likely set you back or even ruin the venture.
But the more important factor determining your organization's progress is its ability to implement change, whether or not the plans for change are of high quality. In fact, the quality of a plan or an initiative is only hypothetical until it is implemented. So faulty implementation can brand even your best plans as poor.
As a consequence, organizational leaders must devote as much attention "to the nitty-gritty of execution" as they do to creating plans and initiatives, if they ever hope to see their organizations progress.
It has been observed that "Even in the best run companies, it is too easy to feel that the work is done when the Big Idea is hatched." For example, the return realized from the time and money you invest in strategic planning or new product development is ultimately determined by your organization's being able to implement the strategic plan or successfully market the product.
The Progress Map
The Progress Map (see chart) shows four cells resulting from the interaction of the two key factors to progress in an organization; the plan and the implementation .
Cell #1: Poor Plan and Poor Implementation
Here lie the losers and clowns. Irrespective of their intentions, these people have insurmountable difficulty either in deciding what to do, or in making correct decisions when they finally do decide. And even when they dare to initiate some action, it never seems to work and the implementation goes awry.
Cell #2: Poor Plan and Good Implementation
One thing worse than a poor plan is to have that poor plan successfully implemented. Now you have to live with the consequences. At one extreme is the clown who had the idea that everyone thought was "goofy". He now makes that plan happen and proves to you how much of a fool he was.
At the other extreme is the villain who has a plan that is harmful to the organization but self-serving to the individual. Using manipulation and other power tactics, he forces the plan to happen and is perceived to be the villain.
Cell #3: Good Plan and Poor Implementation
Here is the cell of high tragedy. The plan was basically good, even great. But the implementation failed. As a result, the leader is perceived to be either a loser who couldn't get the plan to work, a villain because the plan was implemented so poorly it resembled a terrible plan, or a swindler who made great promises but who never delivered.
Cell #4: Good Plan and Good Implementation
Progress and profit only happen in cell #4. Here are found the winners and heroes; those who made promises of a better tomorrow and delivered the goods. Only in cell #4 does the organization get the return on its investment in the plans. In fact, the likelihood for future success increases even more because the leader is perceived to be a winner; and only winners inspire confidence. Winners can go on to even greater triumphs and progress while the losers must live with the costs of failure and low morale.
Implications of not being in Cell #4.
Cell #3, in particular, underlines the vulnerability of leadership. If the head of the organization doesn't have a firm control over the implementation process, he or she is dependent on others to implement the leader's plans for progress. And others may personally benefit if the leader fails.
The value of programs for employee participation, quality improvement and customer relations, for example, ultimately rest upon the success of their implementation. The implementation cannot be left to chance! Poor implementation not only eliminates the potential value of these initiatives, perpetuating the expense of, for example, re-work, employee turnover, wastage, political embarrassment, rejects and lost sales momentum, but it also scuttles executive credibility and the likelihood of successful implementation of any change in the future.
We depend on organizations to make change happen - even global initiatives in sustainable development and ecological, environmental, economic and humanitarian arenas. But most organizations have been designed by intent and by natural forces to resist change! And so we can't presume that the mechanisms are there to make change happen. It's for these reasons that the implementation of change cannot be dependent upon the goodwill of personalities in an organization. Implementation must be a systematized tool of the leader, and a well controlled process.
How To Move To Cell #4:
What Are The Gateways and Barriers to Progress
Some would suggest that a high quality initiative coupled with strong executive endorsement of that plan, is all that is required to successfully implement change. Would that be the case!!
Obviously, a necessary condition for successful change is the active and symbolic support and commitment by the leadership of the organization. Perceived weaknesses or doubts in this commitment frequently destroys the implementation. Lack of support for a change, or behavior of a CEO perceived to be contradictory to the intent of a change, throws confusion into the organization and employees usually seek the status quo for security.
Also, a poorly developed plan is less likely to be implemented than a well thought out one. As well, the way in which the plan was developed may influence implementation. Some plans may require the input and advice of others (if only to get them to "buy in" to the plan) while others may be unilaterally developed and implemented.
But as shown in Table I at the end of this article, contemporary research suggest that many more factors determine success at organizational change.
A very important observation about these factors is that they are almost all organizational characteristics rather than personality traits of the leader. Although the leader may initiate the effort to improve the capacity to implement change, it's the organization that needs to change more so than the leader. The leader influences the will, the desire and the direction of progress, but its got to be the organization that gets you there. The leader can't do it alone. He or she has to build the capacity to progress into the organization.
Management Control is one of the most important factors. Organizational change frequently fails because the organization simply doesn't have its act together. The basics for sound management are not in place. Recently, for example, a manufacturing firm made significant expenditures and effort to implement a Quality Control program throughout its rank and file. Unfortunately it failed miserably because the President couldn't even control the managers and supervisors, let alone the quality of non-management production!!
Many organizational leaders seem to ignore this axiom of change: "You can't purposefully change the direction of what you don't control." Consider driving a car, riding a horse, or racing down a steep hill on a toboggan. It's impossible to change to the direction you want if you're not in control.
Being in control of an organization means being able to influence the behavior, actions and performance of all members of the organization, even senior management. It means not letting people do as they please for fear of upsetting someone. It also means being aware of what members of your organization are doing, and ensuring that they all are performing their assignments the way you feel they have to be done.
Leadership Challenges of the 1990's
 Discover your organization's current ability to implement change - its capacity to progress.
An accurate, objective measure of the factors in Table I can help you pinpoint areas for improvement and quickly raise your employees' consciousness regarding the need to be able to change.
Frequently, low trust of management, previous failures at implementing change, and personal fear make employees unwilling to take the risk associated with any change. Experience shows that many executives aren't aware of these feelings in their staff. Unless your organization's ability to change is measured, you and your management team may remain oblivious to these potential barriers to progress.
For example, for many months the executives of a large utility corporation developed strategic and operational plans. One outcome of this strategic planning process was the establishment of a "Key Result Area" related to improving the organization's ability to implement change.
Using a specially designed survey, The President undertook an analysis of the company's ability to implement change, measuring many of the factors listed in Table I. As a result, he and his management team produced a detailed set of action plans for improving the entire organization's capacity to progress. Now all management jobs contain activity for improving the capacity to implement the operational plans and thereby ensuring maximum payoff from their strategic planning exercise.
 Move your organization to cell #4 and keep it there.
Since winners instill confidence in themselves and in others, and losers don't, organizations who perform in cell #4 are more likely to stay there, and those falling into cells #2 and #3 usually drift down to cell #1. Also, performance in the first three cells results in financial failure in either the short or medium term. To progress, the challenge for the leader is to move the organization into cell #4 and keep it there.
After identifying the factors which need improvement, develop and initiate action plans. For example, one organization discovered low trust of management by many of its employees and serious weaknesses in its ability to influence the day-to-day employee behavior. Long range measures were instituted to regain the trust of the workforce, and a general management system was installed to enforce equitable management control throughout the corporation. In this way, the organization's ability to progress became dependent upon a well defined system and not dependent upon individual personalities.
 Control your organization's implementation process; don't leave it to chance.
To strengthen your organization's ability to implement change and progress, you must systematically gain control over the factors listed in Table I. But your challenge is not so much to make sure that there are procedures in place, for example, for fair, equitable supervision or for giving clear, accurate and timely direction. Your real challenge is ensuring that they're used!
How do you guarantee that what you want to have happen in your organization does happen? How do you really control what you supervisors and executives are doing? One apathetic supervisor or an egotistical executive can cause major damage to the perception of trust and equity throughout your organization.
The solution is to systematize (and audit) procedures to influence the many factors which determine progress, and then you control the system. For example, a general management system is a necessity to control an organization's ability to progress. It should not the responsibility of a Human Resource or Training department. It's a tool of the President.
Summary and Conclusion
Until the 1980's, organizational change was usually "the big event", a dramatic, stressful ordeal that, thankfully, didn't happen often. Organizational change was either a reaction to a sudden external event or a planned activity lasting several years. From now on, however, organizational change may become the usual, rather than the exception. Now, organizational leaders are no longer captains of slow moving ocean liners but pilots of combat jets, with the need to change direction continuously, both as a reaction to the chaos in the environment and as a planned strategy to survive.
Executive edicts, visioning and communication won't bring about successful organizational change and progress. Change has to be "managed" to make it happen. "Attention to detail" and "gentle relentless pressure" aren't attitudes familiar to many leaders, but they're requirements for shepherding change into an organization.
© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation
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