When you’re wrestling day-to-day chaos, it’s tough to execute the grander plan.
In our disruptive world where wrestling chaos is the norm, there is far too much press about the failure of management.
I’ve often read that change or transformation fails because people fail. In fact, 20 years ago I probably talked about the same thing. 15 minutes on LinkedIn and you’ll still see some of this feeling. And while I don’t disagree that it’s all about people. I disagree with the tone that accompanies your mum pointing her finger at you when you’re in trouble rather than recognizing the bigger issue at hand. The reading generally points fingers in two areas;
Old research says people are resistant to change and therefore change fails more often than it succeeds. But my company’s research shows otherwise; See Proudfoot’s Triggering Transformation Survey where we found most people in fact want to participate in change but simply don’t know how. That’s great news. That’s something you can work with.
And then, when it comes to failure rates, our own experience also shows otherwise; See our Results Record where we delivered 110% of target results across our last 600 improvement programs. Results that are far from failure.
So, the change fails theory really doesn’t fly for me anymore. It’s old, outdated news.
The second body of reading that I have also started to take exception to is the anecdotal evidence resting ‘the blame’ squarely in management’s lap; management’s inability to engage people in change; or management doesn’t make the change happen, or management failed in their job; or management didn’t get the results. While I don’t disagree with the principle of this – an inability to trigger transformation – I do disagree with the concept of blame.
Blame expresses culpability, like it’s a premeditated crime or a plotted course of action. Like management purposefully choses to not make change happen.
So, while I recognize it is the job of all leaders to help their people, teams and organizations change and transform, and I also recognize there are a few, misbegotten souls whom don’t care enough to try to make that change happen (or simply think they don’t need to), I believe they are the exception not the rule.
For the most part, I try to look through the lens of empathy and see how today’s business environment is impacting our ability to make change happen. And rather than say it is a ‘failure of management’ to achieve transformation, I think it is a ‘responsibility of leadership’ to learn how to trigger transformation. It’s not just semantics.
When few managers have been present, yet alone led end-to-end transformations themselves and we expect them to wrestle their day-to-day chaos at the same time, it’s wrong of us to say transformation fails because of management. It fails because management lacks the skills and experience to do this, and likely not the desire or willingness. It’s a classic case of can’t do / would do…… if they had the capability.
We can’t expect managers to transform their world of work, if they have not experienced transformation routinely, know it’s pitfalls and challenges, struggle to cope with everything that is coming at them, and don’t necessarily know how to trigger transformation. We can’t expect them to balance their day jobs of delivering results today, with their organizational need of changing their business for the better, for future results tomorrow, if they have not had the means or the opportunity to develop that skill. How can we make them culpable? People don’t know what they don’t know.
Rather than looking at management with that head master scowl, we should look at management with a view to placing transformation capability development to the top of every leaders coaching and development list. We must look for ways to develop these skills.
Providing no empathy toward the world in which managers are expected to manage, is like saying an icy road doesn’t play a part in a winter fender-bender.
Recognizing the myriad of things that are coming at managers in todays business world will go along way to getting the right help to assist them in both leading transformation more effectively and building their own capability to become transformative leaders – people whom lean forward, balancing the future and the present to change their organizations, and lead their people through the process.
Capability versus Culpability
Since taking on the top job at my company (Proudfoot*) last year and experiencing firsthand the effort required to deliver today’s results while transforming an organization for tomorrow’s needs, it has shown me how much more empathetic we need to be in our views of management capabilities versus their culpability. Taking an aspirational platform of ‘skill development’ at every opportunity rather than a platform of criticizing performance. Asking first, do they know how to ‘do transformation?’ before we ‘damn their transformation’ efforts as managements failure.
The real question is ‘what do we need to do to trigger transformation in a world where wrestling chaos is the norm?’ – that’s the key for leadership today.
#triggeringtransformation #peoplesolutions #transform #transformation #leadership #management #empathy.#Proudfoot #wrestlingchaos
*Proudfoot design, implement and accelerate operational and digital transformation through people. Realizing tomorrow’s results, today.