Recently I made the case for a top-down approach to driving a transformation: Start with clear purpose, ensure tangible outcomes, align your leaders and enroll the organization. Makes sense. Except when it doesn’t.

This approach works well when the leader clearly sees the need for change and can enroll his organization to move forward. More and more, though, we don’t have time to go through this process. Business changes so rapidly that if we used this approach every time, we would miss important opportunities and not be successful in the long run.

Instead, today the discussion is about and leading cultures of dynamic, almost constant transformation. This emerging environment is made possible in part by the almost constant barrage of innovative technology that makes access to volumes of data, which is one of the foundations for continuous transformation. The other foundation is the people in your organization.

How do you seize this and guide your teams through all this? Inquiry. Constant Inquiry. Whether of your people or data or both. Inquiry.

The chart shows how this is evolving and demonstrates the changing role of leadership.

In the era of big bang, someone somewhere in the organization would spark an idea for transformation. If successful in selling the idea, leaders would approve a study that would take months to produce the business case. The leaders would then drive the change and employees would follow suit to implement. It would likely take months or years to implement, and would sometimes require a massive, bureaucratic project team.

In the new era, all employees look for and implement small incremental changes in their work. Where larger changes are required, data is reviewed, and employee input is sought. In either case leaders take on a different role. Now they facilitate the changes, and become part of the team, providing their integrating perspective to the changes required. The time frame is near immediate, and the bureaucracy is minimal.

How does this change your leadership?

  1. Recognize that you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. Your organization is filled with people who are aware of how their work is affected by both internal and external factors.
  2. Inquiry becomes paramount. Advocacy still has a role, yet now you must rely more on understanding the current state and how your employees view it.
  3. Greater need for strong facilitation skills. Orchestrating your organization to become constantly adaptive requires strong facilitation skills to bring people together and integrate your vision and direction back into the discussion.
  4. Hiring the right people. Now more than ever bringing the right people into the organization is crucial. You want those who have an eye for constant improvement, can work across functions and are open minded yet firm in their convictions.
  5. Cultivating a culture of trust and healthy conflict. Now that transformation is dynamic, you want a culture where people can openly discuss, disagree, and drive toward the best solution.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

 

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