Corporate change: Are you looking within in your transformation plan?

Managers understandably gravitate to what they know, and what they feel comfortable with.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself,” wrote the Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy.

Taking the path of least resistance, it’s much easier to think, Bob, down the hall in the finance department is the problem. Somehow the difficulty is always with the other guy.

Tough to have the awareness to perhaps start at ‘home base’, and not put the blame on some other manager. Is the starting point, thinking about meaning and purpose? Just about everyone at some, or many points in their career goes through an organisational change programme. But do they have an impact?

What shifts?

Corporate transformation programme efforts go under many names: total quality management, reengineering, right-sizing, restructuring, cultural change and turnarounds.

Remember reengineering, from 30 years ago, that was deemed to be the Viagara of corporate transformation? Even the reengineering creators, Michael Hammer and James Champy stated that "about 50 percent to 70 percent of organisations that undertake to reengineer do not achieve the dramatic results they needed."

When it comes to change efforts globally, and in Kenya, a few have been very successful, a few have been utter failures, and most fall somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt towards the lower end of the scale.

Research from McKinsey suggests that only 30 percent of change efforts succeed. Inevitably, the CEO will quote Ghandi’s aphorism “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

The tricky part is that they do not see themselves as part of the problem, often lacking an awareness of what is going on in the company. If you are not aware of something, does it exist?

We see the management problem, not as it is, but as we are. So within, so without. Managers understandably gravitate to what they know, and what they feel comfortable with. The finance manager will want to restructure the balance sheet, the supply chain chief needs to sort out a roadblock in logistics, and computer folks believe that artificial intelligence will have a magical impact.

Last, HR folks want to put everyone through a ‘transformational’ team-building workshop. Not with a bang, but a whimper. Despite all the well-intentioned initiatives, business goes on, with no ‘big bang’ change moment. Just muddling through, doing enough to survive, getting through another quarter.

Wrong starting point?

Perhaps the focus is wrong? Perhaps there is another starting point? Somehow we always want to change the organisation, rather than starting at home, looking inward.

Almost 2,000 years ago, Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations: “Disturbance comes only from within – from our perceptions.”

Attributing our feelings and emotions to ‘something out there’ is much easier than linking them to our inability to deal with internal perceptions. Even in unusual situations, we have the ability to find meaning internally, despite what may be going on in the workplace.

A classic example of this comes from Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning who noted:

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

Perhaps Tolstoy was right? Building block of corporate change begins, with managers having an awareness of the present moment. Having a ‘being in the now’ focus is everything. And, hopefully, not a focus on the drama of past business events, or a future, that is more a creation of a vivid imagination.

Is all this quite complicated, or is it quite simple? Ryan Holiday wrote:

“What do we need? The truth: not much. Some food and water. Work that we can challenge ourselves with. A calm mind amid adversity. Sleep. A solid routine. A cause we are committed to. Something we’re getting better at.”

David is a director at aCatalyst Consulting | [email protected]

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.