Deep down the CEO knew that alignment problems were preventing each profit center from performing at the right level and he thought he had a solution, but I wasn’t convinced.
Several years ago, I took a nasty fall while skiing with resulting back and neck pain. In my youthful attitude, I expected that like all other injuries, this would ultimately go away. It didn’t.
In my vain attempt for a quick fix, I engaged the services of a chiropractor who explained my problem as “the alignment and related motion or function of a vertebral joint in the neck.” The corresponding fix was a series of “manipulations”. After a year of this, I quit.
When significant misalignment exists in a business over time, as it had in this company, it’s because we have enabled it. The path for change starts with our behaviors, specifically with the CEO.
The concept of alignment presents an attractive illusion that tempts us to make alignment an object to achieve. The illusion: “If I can just get there we’ll be ok and pulling the right levers should do it.”
However, no company ever achieves alignment because people are constantly making adjustments. Conceptually, companies are designed to create value and we ultimately measure success by very simple things: Are current and new customers using our products and services at growing levels, and are the resulting cash flows adequate to fund distributions to shareholders and business expansion at a level that creates growing opportunity for employees.
Adjustment is not manipulation!
Manipulating a system to achieve alignment might look like this, “If I delegate this problem to my operations people they will fix it.” Whereas adjustment might look like this, “What behaviors of mine have sponsored this problem and how do I intend to adjust?”
What I dislike about business school is that it creates intellectual constructs or models of perfection that detach themselves from people’s behaviors. Anyone who has tried to execute change in a company has experienced employee resistance and backed down! This is the heart of the matter.
As I’ve surveyed managers who work for CEO’s they tell me that more than 75% of all change that their CEOs launch is never sustained. Which begs the question, is this adjustment or manipulation?
But, before you start pointing fingers at the CEO, look in the mirror. By subscribing to a change initiative, in spite of a set of experiences that indicate it is not sustainable, you have sponsored an illusion.
If leadership is “the wise use of power and power is the ability to translate intentions into reality and sustain it”, then the cure is wisdom.
Acquiring wisdom is accelerated by sharing failure and adjustment with trusted peers. Do you have a peer group?
So how did I solve my back and neck pain? For nearly 20 years, I’ve worked to strengthen my sagging muscles so they could keep my body core healthy. Once I changed my behavior, my back improved. Outsourcing this problem to an expert just didn’t work.
I’d really like to know your thoughts! Jim@peer-place.com