Making a Difference

When and how do organizational change initiatives make a real and lasting difference?

  • When there is shared recognition of existing and/or emerging value deficiencies, which requires a shared understanding of the nature of value and how the organization creates value.
  • When there is shared agreement on the range of change alternatives that have potential to remediate the value deficiencies, as well as the pros and cons of the alternatives from the perspectives of all stakeholders.
  • When key stakeholders are ready to change if the case can be made that benefits outweigh costs, including stakeholders’ personal costs of change, and well-designed change management processes will mitigate the brunt of the disruptions.
  • When the overall initiative has the sustained and well-articulated commitment of top leadership, including a commitment to investment of necessary human and financial resources.

How can you assure the above conditions are likely to hold?  Here are eight steps that I have found to be helpful:

  1. Deeply understand one or more existing or emerging value deficiencies
  2. Synthesize one or more ways to remediate the deficiencies
  3. Know and understand the key stakeholders who will be affected by remediation
  4. Characterize stakeholders in terms of beliefs, values & preferences
  5. Characterize alternative remediations in terms of affordances & hindrances
  6. Employ a multi-stakeholder, multi-attribute approach to rank order alternatives
  7. Develop plans for pursuit of top three ranked alternatives
  8. Avoiding overreaching

Most organizations under-achieve or outright fail at such change initiatives.  Why? Here is what goes wrong:

  • The contingencies of running the existing organization dominate human and financial resources; needs for change are preempted by needs to sustain the organization today
  • People, particularly leaders, are much better at talking change than doing change; the necessary work of change is not well planned, organized, and executed
  • Investments required, in terms of people and money, are judged to be excessive and unsustainable.  Initiatives whither and change agents seek greener pastures.
  • Creative destruction prevails.  The market no longer wants your photographic film, mainframe computers, or inexpensive analog cell phones.

These factors conspire to result in change initiatives that do not make a real difference.

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