There is no getting away from change. At a point in time, every organization goes through it. Your company will have employees coming and going, technological progress impacting workflow, clients’ demands transforming, and new service and products venues opening. Changes will come, but not all change is progress.
Progress, simply put, is a planned change, it’s purposeful, aimed towards achieving organizational objectives. To achieve progress, the organization needs to move in the direction of making its right intentions becoming a reality. This will only work when boxes of good planning and good implementation are both checked. Obviously, maintaining yourself in the mood for change and having initiatives to go along with it are critical to success. However, these initiatives have to become a part of actual good plans which will help propel you even further, while poor planning is likely to have an opposite effect of setting you back.
Yet, the true king of progress is successful implementation. Your organization’s ability to make plans and intentions come to reality – regardless of their quality – is always going to be the determining factor; a multiplier of sorts. Implementation has the property of going both ways either further enhancing the effect of a plan, being it of high or poor quality, or deeming essentially good plans as poor.
All told, leaders best maximize the attention devoted to plan execution as opposed to just focusing on planning and initiatives. You will have to commit and stay “hands-on” if it’s progress that you strive to achieve.
In general, the observation holds trueб even for companies run by experienced leaders — The work often feels done after the “big idea” has been hatched. When in reality, it is an implementation that determines the return from time and money invested in development and planning. The chart below provides a fair visual representation of the role of two key factors to progress.
< Implementation Quality >
|Cell #2||Cell #4|
|Poor Plan Implemented Well||Good Plan Implemented Well|
|Cell #1||Cell #3|
|Poor Plan Poorly Implemented||Good Plan Poorly Implemented|
|Poor < Plan Quality > Good|
Cell #1 Poor Plan Poorly Implemented
This cell is dedicated to the worst of both worlds. Here lies the indecision, incapability of making the right decisions, and uncertainty in action. Even when the action happens, however, it usually misses the mark and never seems to match the original plan.
Cell #2 Poor Plan Implemented Well
Approving a poor plan is terrible on its own, but implementing it well only solidifies the consequences you are left to deal with. Having someone come up with a goofy plan can seem fun at first, but smiles fade away once you realize not everyone took it for a joke. The feeble-minded plan received the green light and, moreover, ended up being implemented well, making an even bigger fool of the one who came up with it.
Cell #3 Good Plan Poorly Implemented
Here lies the tragic part of planning and implementation. A good plan of action, perhaps even great, which was never implemented to its fullest. Regardless of how good the plan was, it’s the results that the leader behind the plan is judged by, and the results are hardly as good. As a leader, you are either perceived as a loser who can’t make things work, a villain because of terrible implementation which takes the shine out of the plan making it seem bad to begin with or an overall phony who is all talk no action. Either way, it’s never a good look.
Cell #4 Good Plan Implemented Well
Only when these conditions are furnished, true progress can be achieved. If you are the leader capable of taking it from zero to hero — all glory and praises are yours for the taking. Cell #4 is not just about giving promises or even containing them within a reasonable plan, it is about making it come to reality. Leaders like these are viewed as winners, winners inspire confidence, and confidence increases the likelihood of future success. Winners end up taking on bigger challenges, reaching for new heights, while, in the meantime, losers are left to deal with low morale and mismatched expectations.
The Consequence of Missing the Mark
Leadership is vulnerable. When you look at Cell #3, you begin to realize to what extent this statement holds true. When leaders do not take control over the implementation of their initiatives, they have got to rely on others to take over the process. They are putting their reputation and fate of the initiative into the hands of others, who may or may not benefit from their failure.
Certain initiatives that involve customer relations, quality improvement, or employee participation programs require an excellent implementation to be successful. Faulty implementation ruins the initial value of the plan, however, it is not the only possible damage. Consider the expenses needed for rework, wasted time and resources, lost customers and loss in sales — the list goes on. These consequences will directly impact a leader’s credibility and question the ability of successful implementation of future projects.
When you stop and think about it, everyone usually relies on organizations to make changes happen regardless of the area — environment, ecology, humanitarian aid, to name a few, or even changes with a global effect.
Organizations, however, have never been designed to change. In fact, only the minority embrace it, while most organizations resist change. For this very reasons corporations canning be trusted with implementing change as it depends on the willingness of personas within that corporation. Implementation should be the tool at leaders disposal, a process that is polished and well controlled.
Achieving Cell #5 Results
When it comes to high-quality implementation, great initiative followed up by a strong executive backing is often considered the recipe for success. If only that was all it took.
Without a doubt, the strong endorsement from the leadership of the organization is an imperative condition. For instance, when the CEO is not on board or leadership expresses doubt, it only adds confusion and, ultimately, leads to employees seeking the safe status quo instead of going all in for the change.
It is worth mentioning that a well-developed plan is more likely to be implemented than the one developed poorly. How the plan was developed has a direct impact on its implementation. Some plans require persuasion and involvement of another party; others can be unilaterally worked on from start to finish.
But there are more factors to determine the success of organizational change. Interestingly enough, these factors come on organization’s end rather than the leader’s. The leader is the one who initiates change, puts in the effort to introduce the plan, yet it comes down to organizational characteristics that need to change. The leader can influence the direction and the flow of the process, but there is no doing it alone, the organization has got to take you there.
Management control is among the most critical factors of a successful organizational change. Unfortunately, the change is not possible when the leader does no control managers and supervisors. It leads to departments not being on the same page and not moving towards the same goal. No program can be successfully implemented under such circumstances: “You can’t purposefully change the direction of what you don’t control.”
Being in control means being able to influence, direct, and navigate the organization and all of its members, including management. It means being aware of what is happening within your organization, what its members are up to. It also means being informed when employees take the path of lesser friction — leadership-pleasing — over persevering and completing assignments according to the plan of action.
Leadership and Its Challenges in the ‘90s
1 – Evaluate Organization’s Progress Potential by Measuring the Ability to Change
Taking the time to objectively measure the factors and their combinations outlined in the Table 2 can help define areas which are in need of improvement. Focusing your attention on these areas will allow for better preparation for the inevitable implementation of change.
Change is often perceived as something undesirable within organizations due to fear of going out of the comfort zone, unwillingness to take risks, history of failed attempts to implement change, low trust in management, or a combination of either and all of these factors. What’s truly eye-opening is the fact that higher level management is frequently ignorant of the mood in the midst of their staff. Unless you pay the measurement the attention it deserves, you risk being unaware of potential blockers on organization’s way to progress.
Study Table 2 and work with management to produce a plan for the entire organization on how it can improve its ability to change. Consider designing activities for management of all levels as a part of a bigger organizational plan for change, so they could exercise improving their capacity for change within their departments.
2 – Get to Cell #4 and Consolidate the Position
Winning boosts confidence and winners radiate it. For an organization, this means that it’s more likely to stay in Cell #4 once the goal of successful implementation is reached. The news isn’t as good for those in Cells #2, and even #3 as these organizations face the higher likelihood of getting down to Cell #1 rather than breaking the mold and climbing up to #4. Unfortunately, financial damage is right around the corner when the performance remains at either the cell level #1, #2, or even #3. The challenge is left up to the leader to take the organization to the cell of true progress, the Cell #4.
Begin by identifying the problem area, then think through and create the plan of action. Take the lack of trust in management for the sake of the example. It’s a serious weakness that makes it next to impossible to influence lower-level employees. To take back the influence on behavior, you will need to reinstitute management and regain workforce trust. This can be done through equitable management control system established in the entire organization. Thus, you will be shifting the core of organizational ability to progress from personalities to a thought-out and well-defined system.
3 – Don’t leave the implementation process to chance
In order to ensure your organization maintains a strong ability to progress through implementing change, you will have to establish control over factors outlined in Table 2. Yet, your challenge isn’t only in creating directing procedures, but even more so, in ensuring they are being put to use.
The reason why this poses such a tremendous challenge is that you will need to systematize and audit procedures which influence progress. In other words, you will have to control the system. Thus, even if an apathetic or egotistical person sneaks into the ranks of executives, you will be able to prevent the majority, if not all, of the potential damage done to the perception of trust.
Up until the ‘80s, the change was especially stressful, unwanted, but, fortunately, not frequent. It happened at a different pace, usually over a couple of years in cases of planned organizational activity, or as a reaction to an unexpected external event. Since the 1980s the pace has changed from a holiday droptop cruise into a merciless highspeed chase, which now calls for an immediate reaction and adaptation from leaders. Now, to direct a successful organizational change and achieve progress, a leader needs to have a finger on the pulse and manage the entire process.
|Table 2: Organizational Factors Influencing the Ability to Progress|
|1. Commitment to Change on behalf of executives and management|
|2. Development, Quality, and Perception of the plan to adopt Change|
|3. Organizational readiness to receive introduced Change|
At times the entire organization, or some of its parts, are unwilling to accept change. This turns implementation into a struggle, often leading to failure. You can determine receptiveness by looking at such things:
Perception of the need to change. The workforce may or may not see the need to implement changes
Personality differences. Employing all kinds of personality types means some people will not be comfortable with change, or even threatened by it.
Corporate culture. Depending on the current corporate values, organizations may not be receptive of change due to the unwillingness to break the status quo.
Trust in management. When employees do not have a high enough trust in management, they simply will not follow the lead and vice versa.
History of implementing changes. Successful implementations boost confidence, while faulty ones cultivate low expectations.
|4. Executives’ ability to make Change happen|
Organizational ability to successfully make change work is greatly depended on management’s ability to implement it.This ability is determined by:
Management influence. When organizational management has no influence, it has no control. And when there is no control, workforce does what it pleases, which makes a change next to impossible to implement.
Devotion to sound structure. The structure allows for management to happen. The organization needs to be able to reshuffle and adjust its structure, communication flows, and incentives to change.
Clarity of perception. Regardless of the organization, there needs to be a clear understanding of where the organization is headed, what are the communication patterns, and who hold power in their hands. The clarity of direction and authority.
Accurate Feedback. No matter top or bottom there needs to be a reliable feedback system within the organization helping everyone know how they are performing and what is actually happening.
Fixed Standards. Standards need to be established and enforced throughout all of the organization. Otherwise, the workforce gets confused, and management loses control.
Fair and Consistent Management. When double standards or inequity are present it only demotivates workforce and makes management look bad.
Fitting Consequences. Good work needs to be followed up with an appropriate reward, while incompetence with feedback and correction of errors. Not the other way around.
Expectation of Success. When effort is required, the workforce can expect it to be worth it and wind up successful.
Expectation of Recognition. Employees expect management to live up to the expectations and reward performance and effort.