How Organizational Culture Can Change

How Organizational Culture Can Change –

I have read and seen a lot of change management, business transformation, and executive leadership materials refer to the GM-Toyota partnership and the article above provides a nice summary.

This case suggests that driving cultural change is all about modifying behavior through the management system, motivation, and leadership. Further, I concur that trying to change how people think, is a dead end. In support of this assertion, I refer you to The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge for a discussion on mental models.

Culture can change. You can move the needle “one tick at a time”. It is not easy, and the successful ones, are done many times, without anyone even realizing that it is happening.

SOA: Think Business Transformation, Not Code Reuse

SOA: Think Business Transformation, Not Code Reuse – – Business Technology Leadership.

This article gets an enthusiastic “thumbs up” from me on the topic of leveraging technology for business transformation.

Defining Agile Change Management

UPDATE – Please be sure to check out the Change Management Manifesto as well.

How much process is too much process? How can you implement enough process so that you get the benefits (e.g. efficiency, repeatability, scale, etc.) but not too much so as to slow down your agility? The Change Management discipline / industry would be wise to reflect on the concept of “agile” from the software development industry to address these questions.

If you are a change leader, I encourage you to learn more about “agile” concepts in software development. You can easily search on the term “agile” and get a plethora of sites with information. In summary, the agile approach embraces

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Don’t take my word for it. These bullets originated in “The Agile Manifesto” at

Personally, I find agile principles serve as a helpful guideline when trying to balance the need for process. However, many people incorrectly define agile as “without process”. This is not true, and in some ways, agile techniques require more personal discipline than a classic SDLC approach (e.g. waterfall). Agile processes exist, but they live within the context of the four bullets listed above.

Processes are definitely needed, in particular for companies that have reached a certain scale. I have come to experience that “with complexity comes a need for increased discipline.” Processes are proven and worthy tools to deal with complexity in scale, speed to delivery, geographic distance, business risk (e.g. SOX), language barriers, technical barriers, human resource management (e.g. hiring & firing), financial planning (e.g. establishing and managing budgets), software development, etc.

So, in our current environment of a shrinking economy, is complexity going up or down? I say, up. Companies are forced to deal with challenges that they previously may have avoided due to success. Said another way, “success covers up many ills”. To deal with these new complexities, companies may look to leverage processes for increased productivity, efficiency, and most importantly transparency into their business. It is my assertion that, with process comes the law of diminishing returns. There comes a point where process gets in the way, and inhibits a business if process is not actively managed. How do most large entities (companies, governments, institutions) deal with the complexities listed above? They implement processes to manage risk and maintain a level of homogeneous execution across a diverse operations model. This will work, and many companies are proving their success with large scale process deployments today (e.g. look to the Business Process Outsourcing models of any big consulting firm and the existence of ERP software).

The challenge I want to address here is the need to balance process with innovation, delivery, and growth as a change leader. I am not sure there is an answer to “how much process is enough process?” but I am certain that the agile manifesto and the principles it aspires to are helpful to begin addressing the question.

Executive Courage

“The key to change… is to let go of fear.” – Rosanne Cash

I recently came across an article on executive courage at and was reminded of the impact that fear has within organizations today.

Fear is a limiting factor to you and the teams you lead. It negatively impacts culture, team work, and productivity. Fear materializes in many ways through a transformation including but not limited to:

  • Fear of the unknown – “I have no idea what our future business model looks like.”
  • Fear of the known – “Every time I talk with that person they bite my head off, so I gave up talking with them.”
  • Fear of Maslow’s hierachy of needs – “If I share my ideas they may be contrary to my boss and my job may be jeopardized.”

Fear can paralyze organizations at all levels. However, when confronted with courage, companies can overcome their fears and make a difference. I propose that people and organizations achieve their greatest accomplishments when they overcome their fears, or those things that hold them back.

Now is the time for courage. When the competition is fearful of the known, unknown, and/or hierarchy of needs, be courageous and thrive.

Leadership Beyond Bounds –

Leadership Beyond Bounds –

Another quick link to an article with a good perspective regarding leading across organizational boundaries.

How important are relationships as a Change Leader?

Simply stated, relationships matter, they make a competitive difference.

Project Management: How IT and Business Relationships Shape Success – – Business Technology Leadership

If you are facing a transformational change, pay attention to relationships. Relationships are the silver lining of everything you do as a change leader. Without authentic and effective relationships including a genuine leadership style, your ability to affect change will be challenged.

As a change leader you will rarely have line authority over all the resources you need to marshal within the organization. So, how do you influence in the matrix? Be genuine. An old colleague of mine used to joke that “if you can fake sincerity, you have it made.” I always liked the sarcasm in this comment. If you are reading this and you believe it, you might want to check  your internal compass. If you chuckle at this comment, YOU GET IT. The comment makes the point, that change leaders need to be genuine. They do this by putting the needs of the business ahead of their own needs, ahead of their political agendas, and ahead of any personal agendas.

Strong relationships bring trust. Trust breaks down walls and brings collaboration forward faster so you can move through issues. Its not easy to stand in front of a stakeholder and say “we made a mistake” whether you are on the business or IT side of the house. However, it has been my experience that when you do this, and the stakeholder responds positively, you have a chance to work it out. If the stakeholder takes your comment and proceeds to use it as a stick to beat you and/or your team down, you are in trouble. In the later case, you do not have the relationship strength you need, and you need to identify the root cause of the gap, then address it genuinely.

Relationships matter. If you find yourself in a plane where they don’t, take a look around and determine if you have the elements you need to be successful. As the article above references, relationships contribute to many project failures. What makes you or your environment so unique that relationships DON’T matter?

Domains of Transformation

Its not just about processes and systems.
Its not just about processes and systems.

After investigating many different sources of change management expertise and business transformation knowledge, I have defined the following domains of transformation to drive change. Transformation is about more than process and system changes, no matter how much emphasis is placed on these elements, too frequently, we ignore the other domains, which too often end up being the root causes for failure of large scale change.

  • Strategy – What steps the organization plans take to differentiate itself.
  • Business Capabilities – How the organization wants to work and be measured.
  • Technical Enablers – The set of technology capabilities to fulfill the business capabilities
  • Culture – The values and beliefs of the organization.
  • Competencies – What the organization needs to perform their jobs well.
  • Structure – The organizational structure and units of authority.