Change Begins Where Strategy, Culture And Leadership Connect

By Brad Blevins


Many organizations know when they are in need of change. Things that once worked don’t seem work any longer across the organization. Small issues in one area or function or department now seem systemic. Behaviors and attitudes about work, and with work, are changing. Austerity, ambiguity and productivity issues may be permeating.

Organizations recognize when there is a need for change, even if they don’t fully understand what needs changing or where to start in order to address these issues. Often, leaders address performance or engagement opportunities at the surface level, when in reality these may be indicators of a much deeper problem that can only be identified by addressing the organization’s strategy, culture and leadership.

In these cases, leaders must address all of these facets of the organization rather than focusing on a single issue. And while there is no universal resolution for every organization, I’ve found that addressing these performance issues effectively always begins with the following 3 steps.

Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem

So you know you need change. Check.

Then, as any good leader would do, you immediately jump to what you believe should be step 2: solve the problem. You start attempting to change everything all at once. But, while you’re testing new changes, overwhelming your staff with new roles and responsibilities and asking a litany of perhaps unplanned, random, unconnected and overlapping questions, you may be watching your ‘systemic’ issues persist or even get worse.

You ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?”

Where you go is really a question of where you start. It’s important to realize that step 2 is not to solve the problem, because you haven’t yet addressed the cause of the problem. Step 2 is about truly assessing the problems, the situation and the current reality of what is going on in your organization.

Step 2: Assessment

Before you can begin to find effective solutions, you must first accurately and reliably assess the problem you’re trying to solve. Assessment of key variables, regardless of where you company is in size or maturity, is key. This is often a difficult concept for us ardent, type-a leaders who want to see results and see them now.

Patience, we will get you there. But first, let’s assess the situation correctly and thoroughly before we spend resources on solutions that may not be the root-cause of your issues.

There are a few consistent key areas of assessment any organization should start from when embarking on a journey of organizational change. Taking the time to accurately assess the reality of your organization’s issues will help you better identify the root cause and allow you to understand how to best prioritize your approach to the change at hand.

The key assessment areas fall within four key areas:

The first two assessment areas help you understand the reality of your ROI (return on investment) or value:

  • Mission (direction, purpose and blueprint) “Do we know where we are going as an organization?”
  • Consistency (systems, structure & processes) “Do our systems create leverage?”

The second two assessment areas help you understand innovation and customer satisfaction:

  • Adaptability (pattern, trends, market) “Are we listening to the market / our customers?”
  • Involvement (commitment, ownership, responsibility) “Are our people aligned and engaged?”

Once the assessment in these four areas is completed, you now have an understanding of your current operating environment. Now you can begin to prioritize the problems you’ve uncovered, and how you need to address them.

Step 3: Solution Strategies

The most critical solution strategies you put in place will likely require some level of initial action in one or more of the areas of strategy, leadership, and/or culture change. These three areas encompass the triad of successful organizational change attributes.

As I mentioned before, you cannot try to solve everything all at once without overwhelming your team. In order to prioritize these three change navigation attributes, then, you want to choose one of these three as your area of focus:

  • A Strategy focus starts the change journey by first understanding your direction, purpose and blueprint and how these impact organizational success.
  • A Leadership focus starts the change journey by first understanding who you are as leaders in your organization. Consider how you show up collectively as a team and individually as an executive and how this impacts organizational success.
  • A Culture focus starts by first understanding the underlying organizational behaviors, values and assumptions that exist and how these impacts organizational success.

You should start with at least one of these change navigation attributes, but wherever you start, you will realistically tap into all three at some point on your journey to high performance and organizational improvement.

Strategy, culture and leadership all go hand in hand. Your organization will only find sustainable success at the intersection of all three.


Originally published at www.gothamculture.com on July 30, 2015.

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