Sticking To It

I’m reading a recent Management Journal and I come across a new article by Ken Blanchard that reads “Too often companies spend too much time finding and peddling the hot new management concept. How many leadership programs do you need to make a positive difference in your organization? Only one if you stick to it.”

Putting aside that all leadership programs (ill defined concept that it is) are not all equal and that very few are applicable in many organizations, Blanchard is right. The phenomenon he mentions is very prevalent. Repeatedly, organizations get on a management philosophy / leadership style / innovative concept bandwagon, and devote enormous time, money and energy to learn and implement some new way of doing things.
But that initiative rarely lasts. After one or two months the enthusiasm from the leader’s motivational speeches has ended and everyone goes back to square one to wait for the next wagon. And of course, each failed implementation of a promised panacea reduces the credibility of management and the belief that things will ever change.

Blanchard suggests that many of these failed programs would likely have been beneficial, if only the organization stuck to it. That might be so, but unless they were ever implemented, we’ll never know whether the programs were indeed effective or not.

And this brings us to the key issue in this ubiquitous organizational performance problem. “Sticking to it” is easy to say; as if it’s just the result of the managers not trying hard enough, or lacking the will to persevere. But this attitudinal or personal characteristic of not completing new initiatives misses the real problem. The real problem is almost always because the organization, not just the manager, has neither the inherent means nor the skills to implement change. Irrespective of whatever initiative was on the bandwagon, the organization was unable to instill the new way of doing things into its operation.

Lean Management, New Leadership Styles, Quality Assurance, Respectful Workplace, Customer Service and many other positive and potentially very effective initiatives frequently fail because the organization is simply unable to implement them. And this inability to implement those changes is more often prevented by the organization’s successful resolution to the Three Essentials for Organization Success (absolutely critical for implementing change). They are:

[1] What does the organization do to ensure that everyone knows what to do and how to do it — i.e. the new way of doing things?
[2] What does the organization do to ensure that everyone receives support to make them successful with the new way of doing things?
[3] What does the organization do to ensure that everyone follows through and is accountable for meeting his or her performance expectations and obligations with the new way of doing things?

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