LEVERS OF INFLUENCE FOR CHANGE
Amauta International, LLC
In their latest book, Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage, Scott Keller and Colin Price give new and convincing answers to some natty and persistent questions. The authors have developed a number of fact-based, counterintuitive insights about what matters for transition success, such as:
- To sustain high performance, don’t make performance your primary focus.
An organization’s resilience—its ability to align, execute, and renew itself—is equally important and equally manageable.
- The “soft stuff” can (and should) be managed as rigorously as the “hard stuff.”
Tools to measure and manage corporate resilience aren’t taught in business or engineering school, but they exist, are proven, and can be applied by any leader who wants to succeed in making change happen.
- Copying best practices can be more dangerous than helpful.
It’s clear that “best practices” don’t work in a vacuum, and that’s why replicating them in other organizations consistently fails to deliver “best performance.”
- Common sense will often lead you astray.
Rational, logic-driven approaches to creating organization-wide change neglect the irrational biases that we all share. The most effective leaders take into account the predictable irrationality of human beings (including our own) and leverage it fully to create lasting change.
In the authors’ model of change levers for top leadership, they say that if you want someone to change his/her behavior, just imagine you’re in the middle of this square. There are four things that need to happen in relative symmetry:
In what is generally the first step (top right), people need to understand where you have been, where you are, where you want to be and what you want them to do differently, in order for them to be motivated and willing enough to experiment. This is the all important cognitive aspect and cannot be limited to a organizational communication blitzkreig.
Bottom right addresses the dilemma of people understanding the strategy and the desired culture (previous step), but around them only see organizational systems and processes that reinforce yesterday instead of tomorrow. If we’re supposed to act with speed and urgency but the budget process takes three months, people will think, “Why bother? It’s just not real.” You can’t change thousands of processes overnight but you can choose the five or ten that will most leverage outcome early early on.
Bottom left is about capabilities. People may want to change, and see processes changing around them, but they also have to have the technical and leadership skills to behave differently. For the organization, that gets you into placement, replacement, and development: placement is moving people around, replacement is moving people out in the appropriate way, and development is helping people in place gain new skills.
Many of us psychologists would say that the top left is as important as the other three put together and has to start being evident from the very beginning. People need to see significant others, including senior management, role-modeling new behaviors, following new processes and building new capabilities. If we’re supposed to be more open to the external world, for example, top management has to be out there visiting plant floors, clients and cusgtomers.
Each of the four levers affects mindsets (well below the waterline in the iceberg) in a particular way and many transformation programs rely more on some levers more than others, but using all four together is necessary to set in motion a powerful system that maximizes getting new patterns of thought and behavior to stick. Imagine that you are at a symphony concert on Saturday night and a soccer game on Sunday. At the former, you are most likely quiet throughout and applaud with rapt ecstasy at the end. At the soccer game you frequently leap to your feet, yelling and waving and jumping up and down. You haven’t changed, but your context has (the influence model that surrounds you) and so has your mindset about the behavior that’s appropriate for expressing your appreciation and enjoyment.
Organizations that are unhealthy are often caught between a concert hall and a soccer stadium. Asking employees for a soccer-stadium mindset is of no use if your evaluation systems and leadership actions communicate that your organization is still a concert hall. If you want your people to think like soccer fans, you need to provide plenty of cues to remind them they are in a stadium.
©Copyright 2011 – Amauta International, LLC.
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