As you may know, the Chinese word for crisis combines the components for both danger and opportunity. Part of the crisis opportunity is that people pull together and can accomplish great things.
Without a crisis to pull people together, how do you create a growing, living organization which is continually getting better? One way is to institute a "new program," such as a learning organization, TQM, etc.
A Different Example
Wayne Mang, president of Russel Metal, Inc. in Canada, wants his company on the road of continuous improvement. But the push must be continually renewed. Mang refers to himself as a "traveling salesman" of change. He believes the company needs a sense of crisis to push it
up the spiral of experimentation, change, and improvement.
Mang is not your usual CEO. He claims to value employees who are "trouble makers" because they speak out about things wrong with the company and ways to improve it.
Normal employee suggestion systems usually don't achieve much, partly because organizations don't value and encourage negative input and certainly don't value people they label as "trouble makers." Yet a serious employee input program can achieve wonders, when employees
believe in it.
The difference between successful and unsuccessful organizations is usually pretty obvious in their so-called "corporate cultures." Culture consists of the attitudes of the individuals in the organization towards each other, towards customers, etc. It all adds up to a corporate personality, which is hard to change once established. It is often more accurately described in the informal lore, grapevine, or political strategies than in corporate value statements, visions, or annual reports. For instance, successful cultures generally accept criticism better.
A Simple Key
I believe that any successful change program needs to have one clear, simple key,--a linchpin--that everyone can understand. That's why a goal like great customer service is so effective. It's clear and everyone realizes the importance of it.
The key can be more complex, such as tying everything together throughcomputers. This can be the linchpin to reengineering all the processes in the organization.
A single key is easy to communicate to employees, customers, and others. I call it a linchpin because making one clear change can have cascading effects throughout the organization. One thing leads to another, and as different bottlenecks emerge, they're taken care of in an organic way rather than in a reengineered way.
Reengineering is probably the most popular change label today in organizations. But as generically applied, it has problems. The biggest flaw in most reengineering efforts is their model of organiza-
tions as machine-like, ignoring the human factor.
The reengineering model suggests that you can design an entire system intellectually. But a design "on paper" is not the same as a practical--or effective--implementation.
More sophisticated approaches incrementally test how "the system" works in practice. They introduce it gradually and make many adaptations along the way. This turns out to be more like the "linchpin" approach I'm suggesting here.
One thing that most successful, directed change efforts have in common is a clear goal or vision of where the organization needs to be. Then that vision is communicated to everyone repeatedly, like CEO Mang's continual "salesmanship."
To be accepted by everyone, people must accept the goal as important. For instance, a vision of a 100% customer service guarantee, or reducing errors to six sigma, is clearly important, challenging, and measurable. It's not just "the boss" making up some arbitrary standard.