Thursday, November 24, 2011

Are we there… Yet?

There is none like the piercing sound of a little voice breaking the silence only to gauge the point of arrival at the destination. On a trip, the arrival at a physical destination is populated with signs; however this may not be the case when anticipating change without progress markers. More often than not, change; personal or corporate does not occur in isolation. But rather it is a cog in a highly complex environment that is constantly undergoing transformation.

As the global economy continues its daily oscillation between financials bearing red or black, organizations continue to search for the silver bullet; that one illusive ‘magic’ fix that will catapult their organization out from this current economic turmoil. One needn’t look far to experience the explosion of seminars, webinars, articles and the like meant to help you catapult to a better tomorrow. What is so amazing is that many of them come at the right price – FREE. This pricing model is something that subversively attacks the very definition of value.

Several years ago I wrote on the concept of a market continuum, where organizations in a similar market niche become placed along the ‘success continuum’ based on their inherent nature to adopt change. At that time I argued, that their placement on the continuum is the result of organizational culture and its related risk sensitivity. Although I believe this still continues to be the case, I believe that market forces have exposed more elements to these phenomena. To get to these other forces, I believe we need to begin with an understanding of organizational change.

The only thing that is constant in the world is change and this is especially true at the corporate level. Organizations are under constant bombardment from economic and social forces that continuing along the status quo is the road to extinction. Organizations must continue to respond to their environment by making alterations [change] to continue to hold their place along the market continuum. It is the progressive organization that is able to leap out and upset the market continuum as a means of gaining the competitive advantage.

As an attendee at a recent symposium on change, I listened intently for something that I hadn’t heard before – me and 500 other attendees. What was spoken was none different that any 1st year MBA student would gleam from a text book. After hearing it and reading it 100+ times, this time something was different. This speaker espoused his acronym that is the pivotal point to long lasting change – VIM.

Long lasting change is built on VIM - Visualization, Intention and Methodology. Although very simply in vernacular the essence is very deep. For successful change to occur, the change agent must be able to ‘see’ what the end result of the change will be – somewhat like arriving at the planned destination of a long trip. Without this visualization – any end result will do. In the corporate environment, this visualization must be in the hearts and minds of all. If there are nay sayers on the team, their negativity will be a force that derails the entire plan.

The second major facet of lasting change is the Intentional aspect. Intention is the motivation which is the force to continuing along the road to the visualization. The element of intention is the determination to achieve the end goals, this, however is where greater elements of leader ideals become apparent. The last and probably most important factor in change is ‘methodology’. Without having a clear plan of orchestrating the steps to long lasting change, all other elements of VIM are rendered useless.

The important thing to recognize is that these elements do not operate in sterile isolation. There are two major forces, I feel, at work in adopting change. There is the organizational stimulus to the market and the market response. The one thing that is never considered during change is the human element; those inner psychological workings that impact the very foundation of change. This element is probably not addressed possibly because one could assume that talent and human traits are evenly distributed in the market place, or possibly that authors are only attempting to extricate the human element and profess the academic side of change.

In his recent article 'Creating a Master Plan', Mark Wadell professes the road to reaching an objective begins with an examination of the present; the famous S.W.O.T analysis. For the MBA student, S.W.O.T analysis becomes second nature. It is easy to examine a sterile organization on paper and work out its position on the market continuum. But how do the challenges of present analysis and ultimate change become distorted when the conductor is not objectively looking in from the outside. Once inside the organization, all leader actions are veiled by inner persona which can be riddled with neurosis and even psychosis. Couple the myopic leader with a subordinate staff who, because of the economy, are fearful of being made redundant and the possibility of a distorted group think will run rampant.

The question begs, how are organizational goals to be achieved when there are so many forces acting on the organization? Should there be greater internal controls to mitigate the possibility of oppression of the narcissistic leader? Creating a model of greater internal controls meant to nullify the flurry of psycho-oppression may; in fact, stifle the brilliant eccentric who has the ability to catapult the organization beyond its current abilities, may be conceivably possible. Alternatively, the organization could be dealing with the myopic narcissist, who is taking the organization into an abyss.

Probably the best way to identify and thereby react to the organization’s leader comes from the culinary adage "The proof of the pudding is in the eating". The quality of an organizational leader is only discerned by the results of their actions. All leaders will indelibly change an organization, whether it is through tremendous innovation or sanguine financials.