Three Questions to Change Tracks Rather than Changing Trains

By Barry Pruitt

dateFri, Jul 19, 2013 @ 10:24 AM

Implementing change on a company level can feel insurmountable.  As a matter of fact, the more question_marksuccessful companies become, the more difficult I find it is for them to change.  But growth requires change.  The business ideologies that have driven organizations to success over time often contain specific ideas about organizational structure, performance measures, and hiring habits.  But as you grow, you will find that what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.  And even in gazelle-like companies, we often find the "that's the way we do things here" mentality. 

So how can you change an organization?  Why even try to implement change? Here is the challenge: if large, successful organizations were trains, then many of them are coming to a screeching halt between stations.  Why?  Because the way the world does business is changing, but the leviathans of business are not. 

So what can we do to embrace the changes our companies need – and the economic times demand - while preserving the core qualities of the organization?  Work through these three questions: 

  1. What do we consider good performance?
  2. Do middle managers focus on improvements or maintaining the status quo?
  3. Historically, what skills does the company value? 

With answers to the above questions in hand, consider discussing them with key stakeholders. The answers should raise additional questions, like "what future changes are necessary to bring about transformation in our company?"  Your answer may lie in these tips from a recent Harvard Business Review article: 

  • Understand the emerging competitive reality and its implications for the bottom line. 
  • Identify gaps in future skills needed and fill them quickly.
  • Evaluate and upgrade IT systems, because they usually represent old business models.

Remember, don't just pull your train off the tracks.  Instead, give it a new schedule and route.  Simply removing dysfunctional practices, behaviors, and beliefs is almost impossible.  However, replacing them with new ideas, behaviors and expectations is your ticket to organizational change success. Utilize the above three questions, implement the HBR tips, and practice the Rockefeller Habits -- you'll find yourself on a new journey - a new track for business success.

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Barry Pruitt


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