Breaking down the walls is not enough

Managements transformation fallacy

I recently had a conversation with a senior executive who I have a great deal of respect for. He spoke with me about the need to transform the culture of an organisation. The intention was to become more effective at running programs and projects while, at the same time, become more efficient in operations. For him it is more than just getting better performance in metrics. It is about making a better place to work and improve collaboration.

Basically, be a better business for everyone.

He said to me “You have my support. Get a hard hat and run into those wall until you break them down!”

How many times have we heard this from senior people? They are keen to see change and are willing to support that change.

My response, I think, surprised him.

I said “Thank you for the statement of support. The issue is not the executive support for me. The issue is the business. You have an army of people standing by those walls with bricks and mortar eager to rebuild them as soon as I break them down!”.

You see it is not the executive group who actually make the change happen. Don’t get me wrong, change can’t start, or be maintained, without them. They are the catalyst.

It’s us that make change happen. If we keep insisting that the “safe” place is compliance to the current process; the current “way we do things around here” then we need stop insisting that we want things to be better too. Change does not come from that safe place. Change comes from the slightly scary risky place where failure is a possibility. Where we are almost certain to make mistakes.

Transformation is never hundreds of reports and PMOs looking for standardisation for the sake of every document looking the same. And it’s never about whether you used the right template! It comes from being willing to ask “why do we do that?”.

A culture that beats people up for stepping outside of the norm won’t change. A culture that won’t celebrate a calculated risk that didn’t get the outcome intended simply can’t change.

It’s only the first step to break the walls down.

The real change is begun when we, together, choose to not rebuild them.

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Nathan Jones