MM: Now you’ve gotten to the root cause of why most change initiatives fail: distrust and the lack of transparency in overall process that reinforces distrust.
TM: Yes. And that’s why someone who has this change-management, psychological understanding and can facilitate is an important vehicle. He was able to identify those fears.
TM: Absolutely. ‘Cynical,’ is a very good word to use.
MM: Where “cynicism,” is simply the belief that the past will repeat itself.
TM: What’s past is prologue.
MM: Right. So effective change-management and innovation leadership must not start with the end-to-end visual depiction of the current big mess, project and executive leadership must address the deep-seated beliefs, “I don’t trust our workflow” and “I’m sure that I trust others to tell the real truth about what’s really going on around here.” The innovation-leadership process then entails building new trust in the proposed system.
TM: Building trust and—as this person used to always say—eliminating fears: It’s kind of the same thing, but… Fear-based activity is rampant during these processes.
Seeds of Failure Sown in Executing Well
MM: This gets to another underlying issue that you’ve set up beautifully, here.
After a while, most successful businesses become what I call, “execution systems.” From the annual strategic plan, most firms at the senior levels have well-defined goals, roles and responsibilities; everyone then supposedly “executes against plan.” There’s nothing wrong with that: companies must find and keep customers. However, in a larger context, executing against plan results in everyone keeping their heads down and getting their particular jobs done. Only, there’s no mental space to innovation, little or no freedom to change things for the better.
You could say that change and the special class of change—innovation—becomes sand in the gears of execution; that fundamentally most companies have constituted themselves as “change-resistant execution systems.”
TM: Not on purpose, I don’t think.
MM: That’s right. Not on purpose. But everyone got so focused and busy trying to survive, grow sales, and maintain profitability—all excecutional mindsets—that baby that got tossed out with the bathwater. We traded growth and security for our ability to change and adapt—we traded away our ability to innovate as a matter of daily habit.
We’re at the point now where the world continues to change so rapidly—because technologies and innovations change fundamentally how we find and serve customers—we now must bring into our execution system a new set of muscles: innovation leadership muscles.
Today everyone in an execution system knows—for the most part—to whom they contribute information or results in the workflow. Most everyone knows what outputs they owe to whom, and who owes me. What qualifies as good inputs and outputs.
MM: But in the context of change, there’s no accountability. There isn’t any role clarity around “who owes what, delivered how, by what criteria of satisfaction or quality.”
I say the lack of accountability in the change context surfaces as the root cause of change resistance. No one knows what to produce, for whom, in a change context.
That was what was so brilliant about your end-to-end visual depiction of the catalog development and publishing process.
You made it clear exactly who does what for whom in the current state. The map also supported fact-based discussions, “In the future, interim or automated ideal, “Who should owes what to whom?”
You got everyone to agree, “Yes. That would actually work for me.” That really defines the art of futureproofing: getting everyone to accept a new set of accountabilities rooted in the holist improvement of the business as well as the improvement of individual productivity. Brilliant!
MM: So part of addressing fear-based behavior was replacing it with optimistic, forward-looking, pictures and images and experiences—as grounded by this visual depiction of the interim workflow, as well as the optimized workflow.