Walking the Tightrope

Leaders walk a tightrope – balancing the need for change against the willingness and ability of the organization to implement those changes successfully.

Since “change imposed is change opposed”, how can a leader bring change into their organization? Especially if the change will add even more load to key individuals who are already stressed out. If the leader insists on implementing the change, the best people might leave, causing their work to be split among the survivors who already feel overloaded, thereby increasing the probability that they might leave, too.

One approach is:

· Focus on the vision and mission of the organization. If the vision and mission is to use the organization’s products and service to help make a better world for our children, it is one (major) reason why the employees work there. Seeing how the proposed change will help them accomplish their mission will be an incentive to implement the change. However, if the vision and mission is to maximize return to the shareholders, this tactic will probably not be very effective. (Incidentally, contrary to what most people believe, data conclusively show that for-profit companies that honor people and respect the planet deliver substantially higher returns to investors. Thus, for-profit companies can have vision and mission statements that truly engage their workforce.)

· Ask what the individual is currently doing that can be 1) discontinued, or 2) offloaded to another person. Discontinuing is the better alternative, because then the total workload actually diminishes. Value Stream Mapping is a Lean tool that can help an organization see what adds value to the customer (and should be continued), and what does not add value to the customer (and therefore is a candidate for discontinuation). Offloading is less desirable because it merely shifts the work, and because most people (including the “offloadee”) have little or no slack in their workday.

This approach works because it honors the people and works with them. It’s the antithesis of the corporate version of the Golden Rule – “The person with the gold makes the rules!” This approach is better for the long term than forcing change, because forcing change frays the underlying relationship and goodwill, which is the foundation upon which all organizations operate.

What do you think? I’d enjoy your feedback, or, even better, an e-mail exchange (gary) or phone call (971-221-8155)

Gary Langenwalter

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