Three Myths for Change

Applying strategic thinking to change

Three MythsIn a recent blog posting on HBR Nick Tassler wrote about three myths he has found in strategic thinking. I thought these ideas have just as much relevance for Managing Change. These three myths help to focus on doing the right things to make a difference with the resources available — sound familiar? Yet look around you, are you really focussed on making a difference or is there some ‘make work’ in there as well? My recent experience at meetings and consulting with a local authority have again awoken my awareness of the pervasive Parkinson’s Law.

In one recent encounter a senior manager in charge of change for a large plc promoted their process for ensuring their resources are best placed to achieve strategic goals, and almost in the same breath complained about Director’s pushing through their pet ideas with no strategic relevance. I don’t think there was any irony.

We are all capable of deluding ourselves so these myths might help you to see some ways of achieving the strategic focus for change.

Myth 1: Productivity is the Goal

In strategy implementation productivity is not the goal; it is getting the right position in the market (a unique proposition to a segment of the market) and the ability of the business to deliver the proposition at a profit. Productivity is essential and the remit of operations to deliver.

Similarly in change: activity is the goal. How often do you hear a senior manager asking what is happening? The need to be doing something, rather than working out just what needs to be done to be successful, is often paramount. As Peter Drucker famously said: “There is nothing quite so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”  Sometimes changing the right thing comes at the expense of not changing something else and that can cause bruised egos! Hence it is easy to change everything and avoid the problem. Of course, now there is all this stuff to change there is dilution of resources, lengthening of timescales, and often not much gets changed after all. I have often found that doing less change results in more change getting done.

Myth 2: The leader’s job is to identify what’s “important.”

Of course, everything is important to someone. The hard part is saying no to some people so to keep up the harmony (or even just keep the job) most people don’t say no. The leader’s job is to set priorities and stick to them to ensure strategic alignment for change. This includes scope creep after a change is agreed as a priority. A good leader can face down requests for vanity projects (no matter how important) if they are not strategic and priority for the resources available.

Only prioritisation can deliver successful change with finite resources.

Myth 3: Strategic thinking is only about thinking

Action must follow thinking. The implication for strategy is not to spend too much time on analysis and options but to get on with change whilst there is still time. Decisions need to be made and choices picked. Then get change going. An earlier blog about decision making emphasises the need to decide then make that the right decision — rather than wait until its too late — procrastination.

Similarly with change, it is necessary to get started. The challenge is to develop the change in such a way that as many options remain open as possible. Agile change is a technique well suited to this approach. This is a topic we will return to in the near future.

Allocating priority to match the resources available for change is the key message. Are your change activities prioritised? Could you reduce all of your change to one priority? If not why not?

Comments: send us a tweet @C4ChangeMgt

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