The biggest mistake people make when trying to change their organization is to barrel forward without establishing a high sense of urgency in fellow managers and employees. This is a fatal error.
Transformations always fail when people are complacent
Judy was tapped to head up a new transformation initiative for her company. She was smart, she was motivated, and she was dedicated. Moreover, she was able to see a lot of the problems under the covers that would derail the company in the future. She saw it as her personal mandate to ensure success.
She worked day and night to launch new initiatives to help the organization “take the leap”, but she realized few others saw the problems, or the potential upside of successful change, in the same way she did. However, she failed to see this as a failure mode for the change efforts.
As a seasoned executive, she knew she could push people to get on board or replace them outright if they didn’t get on the bus
In the 3 years after she was put in charge of this new transformation initiative, she watched all her efforts get gobbled up by the complacency machine. No matter how much “carrot and stick” she tried, she couldn’t even make it past the first phase with any level of success. The changes to the organization took so long to implement, competitors could easily react to the changes.
Because she couldn’t establish momentum fast enough, funding for her change initiative was cut
Even the reorganization she proposed was talked and analyzed to death. Eventually, she gave up and moved to become the head of a new division that was already successfully implementing a lot of the ideas she was trying to push forward in the broader organization. Unfortunately, over the next two years, she watched, horrified, as the broader organization (with little sense of urgency) ignored all the powerful lessons that could be learned from this upstart division.
And instead, the larger organization stifled the innovation and flexibility of this new division
Smart people like Judy don’t create enough urgency at the outset of business transformations. They over estimate how much they can force the changes and underestimate how hard it is to get people out of their comfort zones. They don’t understand how their own misguided actions can uphold the “business as usual” mindset. They’re not patient enough. They are intimidated by making the hard choices that can lead to a downturn in short-term results.