The Power of Organizational Courage
I have often been invited to help companies implement some form of technology to help it achieve its goals. Let me tell you: the challenge is never the technological change. You may hear how hard a change may be from IT. But that is never the obstacle to wringing all the value out of a technology investment.
The cultural and behavioral challenge is greater than the technological challenge.
Some function or department always has a vested interest in keeping the status quo. Whichever area is “driving the bus” will be least interested in championing the change. But you don’t get to be the bus driver without being powerful and wily. Nearly always, the true objections are cloaked in full support behind an alternative approach that will be cheaper, faster or more easily integrated into current processes.
What does that look like? Business leaders who find small examples of quasi-compliance with the new initiative and claim they have already done it or already have a plan to complete it. Business leaders who nod their heads when the topic of change management rises but only cite examples of other departments that must change. These are slippery fish and almost always politically adept people. They are usually the first to question ROI and priorities and the last to acknowledge the changing competitive condition or the benefits case.
Roadblocks come in the form of complacency and fear by leaders who see the hardships of today as permanent and the possibilities of the future as unobtainable. Unabashedly proud of their growth from some past state they weave entertaining stories and lull their listeners into believing that past triumphs are predictors of future successes. Don’t be fooled.
My experience has been that only those organizations with a hunger for change – a burning dissatisfaction with the current state – succeed in realizing their full business growth potential. Only companies with the organizational courage to make unprecedented changes occur will solve their business problems. Quoting my high school biology teacher, effective executives lead change through both “pleasant and unpleasant stimuli.” Change performance metrics, change incentive metrics, change personnel, take risks. That is organizational courage.