Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Effecting change through a table of organization in the face of inertia and historical practices

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 24, 2010

This is my second posting in a short series on change management, and from the perspective of how a need for this develops. My first installment in this series, Working More Effectively in a Table of Organization when it Does Not Allow for That, set a stage for this by presenting one of the more common reasons why change management can become necessary – ongoing, systematic failure in strategy, operations and execution stemming from failures in communications and a splintering of goals and priorities.

That may establish need, but the causative factors underlying a need for change management can also prove to be the greatest challenges to effecting change too. Managers do not simply set up and hide behind silo walls and other barriers simply for the greater glory of being independent entrepreneurs. They do not so this because they want to control things or for power. These can be results, but at least in my experience fear is a more underlying motivator – fear that resources needed to run the business are insufficient, and that effort has to be made to both acquire and hold onto a sufficient share for your team and for its being able to complete its tasks and priorities – so neither you nor the people who report to you will be laid off or downsized and so you can retain your position, and yes maybe even advance as a manager.

Silos can form for many reasons and in many ways, but they are generally a sclerotic result of the cumulative effects of self-protective measures taken – at the expense of others within the same organization and of that organization’s overall strategy and planning.

If you want to change manage effectively, you will not be able to do so if you start out with the same type of “us versus them” approach that led to this being necessary in the first place. First and foremost you have to understand what the people behind those silo walls are so concerned about and why. And you have to find ways to involve them in change as an approach that can effectively address their concerns. And this requires delving into the details. Broad brushstroke explanations of higher goals and aspirations to rebuild the company will not work and can only alienate, by proving you do not understand the sources of resistance you have to resolve. The people who set up and work behind those barriers, after all, are the very same people who you will have to work with in effecting change.

As a final thought for this posting, change management is never resorted to until a business has already reached a crisis stage from its operational and strategic failures. Resources have shrunk to a true crisis level and while there may still be fairly significant liquidity available (note, I realize that does not sound obvious), there is no way to allocate it where it could most effectively be applied (but that should sound fairly obvious.)

You cannot go in and simply “grow the pie” that has to be divided up but it is necessary to identify and address the crucial priorities that the business as a whole faces. And as a change manager you have to get supportive, participating buy-in from the managers and senior managers in place. So you have to find ways to take some of the pressure off of them to make that possible.

Effective change management begins with that.

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