By Laura Petrolino
When I was in my early 20s, I went through a phase I now fondly refer to as “relocationitis.”
About every eight months, I’d suffer a flare-up and decide (rather spontaneously) to move.
I’d convince myself any and all of the irritations, frustrations, and disappointments I was currently facing in my personal or professional situation would…poof… disappear.
This new location would be a utopia where all of my dreams would come true.
Like clockwork about six months later, frustrated and once again facing the same troubles I had in my previous place of residence, I’d conclude this obviously wasn’t the land of milk and honey and be off to find my next utopia.
Change Starts from Within
Some years later, I realized my ill-fated quest for the Promised Land repeatedly fell short because although I wanted change, I was only willing to achieve it through adjusting my external circumstances. I refused to look at the internal change needed to accomplish my goals. Without making internal adjustments, I’d never be where I wanted, no matter where I was physically.
This is a situation many businesses experience when trying to change. They have a goal in mind, which requires internal organizational change to accomplish (as most goals do), unfortunately they are either only willing to change at a superficial level, or have no plan of action in place for successful organizational change.
The internal will always reflect the external. And it is the law of nature that things like to remain how they are. An organizational culture will always support doing things the way they have always been done, which often includes reinforcement of the bad habits and practices hindering growth and progress.
Just as I had to focus on the internal changes I needed to make personally in order to achieve my goals, for a business to create the type of changes needed to achieve their goals, they MUST start by focusing inward, and adjusting their organizational culture.
Cultural change is difficult. It requires unwavering commitment, consistency, strategy, and great communication. Never a one size fits all process, it is different for every organization based on their goals and obstacles. Experts such as Dr. John Kotter have investigated the needs of successful cultural change dynamics extensively and developed processes to help walk organizations through such change.
But these plans only work if an organization accepts they are needed. And in my experience, that’s the biggest hurdle for a business, its leaders, and its teams to overcome.
Identify the Right Business Goals
This is the time of year when most businesses take a hard look at their 2014 goals and what needs to be done to reach them. It also means this is a time to take a step back, stop looking externally, and ask yourself the following:
- Can our current structure scale, adjust, and be pliable enough to facilitate the changes we need to make? How is your organization set up? Does this set up encourage innovation, advancement, and a collaborative team environment? Put your engineer hat on here, look at what you are trying to achieve, and blueprint what type of structure fits most effectively and efficiently.
- Do the internal goals and measurements of success we use to evaluate our leaders and team members align with the business goals we are trying to reach? This is a big one. Often what organizations measure internally, base team member reviews on, and even measure promotions against are not skills that align with, or help contribute to, their ultimate business goals. These are only base metrics — numbers you might be able to improve upon — with little or negative affect on actual business goals. Evaluating this requires taking many of the micro processes and operations in your organization and continuing to stair-step out until you are able to view their affect on a macro level.A good example might be if you are evaluating handle time for call center staff (i.e., how quickly they complete calls) and are constantly encouraging lower times. You might be able to get through more calls, but in the process, you are also lowering service levels, losing clients through poor or mishandled service (resulting in more repeat calls because of lack of first call resolution), and so on. In the end, the benefits of a lower call handle time are cancelled out by the drawbacks.
- Are the right leaders in place to lead the change needed to reach our business goals? Big plans require big leaders. This means making sure people at all levels of management are in place not simply because they are subject matter experts, but because they can lead and motivate teams to excel. Often times, the biggest obstacles an organization will face in pursuing progressive change are managers that block it out of fear of losing power or control. Leaders will help all levels of the organization embrace and adapt to change.
- What cultural obstacles do we face that could prevent our success? Every organization has its Achilles heel. Facing obstacles head on will give you the intelligence to plan accordingly to minimize issues.
Looking internally, and honestly evaluating the internal and cultural obstacles it faces, is one of the toughest and the most important things an organization can do to as it looks to grow and progress.
What other questions do you suggest business leaders ask themselves when doing these internal evaluations? What questions do you ask?