Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original expectations. Reasons vary but, more often than not, those who lead the initiatives are unable to avoid or overcome cultural resistance, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of customer.”
In the July/August 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review, Jon Katzenbach, Ilona Steffen, and Caroline Kronley share their thoughts about how to complete a “culture change that sticks.” Here is a brief introduction to this brilliant article.
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When properly harnessed, an organization’s culture can be a true differentiator that no competitor can duplicate. However, as pressures on companies build, leaders often become frustrated with the comparatively slow pace of culture evolution. In the rush to implement new strategies and make performance improvements, the legacy culture—employees’ ingrained ways of doing things—can seem like the greatest barrier to change. Unfortunately, most well-intended efforts to “change the culture” fizzle out, fail, or backfire.
Here’s the good news: There is an alternative.
Drawing on recent research and real examples, the article’s authors present a new approach that leverages what is strongest in an organization’s existing culture, providing a practical road map for real, substantive evolution in employees’ ways of behaving by focusing on a few critical shifts. This approach has been tested and proven in client engagements across a range of regions and industries.
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To download the pdf and read the complete article, please click here.
Jon R. Katzenbach is a senior vice president in the New York office of Booz & Company and the leader of the Katzenbach Center, which focuses on the development and application of innovative ideas for organizational culture and change. He is the co-author, with Douglas K. Smith, of The Wisdom of Teams (Harvard Business School Press, 1993) and, more recently, Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results (Jossey-Bass, 2010), co-authored with Zia Khan. Ilona Steffen is a director in the Zurich office of Booz & Company, and Caroline Kronley is a former senior associate in the firm’s New York office.
In The Right Fight, published by Harper Business (February-2010), Saj-nicole Joni and Damon Beyer explain how great leaders use healthy conflict to drive performance, innovation, and value. “What it really takes to lead people and organizations is this: if you want to succeed at an ever-increasing complexity you have to establish clear vision, set strategy, and build alignment. Then you need to systematically orchestrate right fights – and fight them right.”
They identify three major benefits:
1. Right fights lower risk. “Effective systems of checks and balances always depend on vigorous dissent.”
2. Right fights create value. “They live at the heart of innovation, breakthrough, and real change.”
3. Right fights grow better leaders. “They are surest way to develop the leadership skills and strategic thinking necessary for the twenty-first century.
“You can learn to create healthy conflict and positive change by choosing the right fights. Of course, you have to be careful. You’ve probably seen right fights fought wrong that failed to produce [desired] results, and of course wrong fights, even of fought right are worthless.”
The Opposable Mind
Crucial Conversations and
Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O’Toole
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Saj-nicole Joni is an internationally known business strategist and advisor to CEOs and other top executives across the globe. A frequent speaker with a regular Forbes.com column, she has also appeared on numerous television programs and published several articles. She has taught at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Wellesley. Joni is the founder and CEO of the Cambridge International Group. Damon Beyer is a senior executive advisor with Booz and Company and a founding member of the Katzenbach Center for organizational innovation. He is a former partner with McKinsey & Company and has also published several articles in major business journals, including Harvard Business Review.
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