Change is the most frequently used buzzword these days. In the business world, the need for positive change has been widely recognized for many years. Change and its management has been the main ingredient in strategic thinking of successful organizations, whether in the form of continuous incremental improvement, or as innovation and breakthrough.
World-class organizations devote considerable time and effort deciding what needs to improve and how to effect positive change. Successful leaders of these organizations communicate a clear vision of what higher levels of performance are needed and are able to motivate others to achieve the goals and objectives necessary to realize that vision.
Transformational initiatives often fail for two main reasons:
- Lack of leadership vision and support
- Failure to obtain the commitment of all members of the organization
Providing a vision is necessary, but not sufficient for transformational success. If the resources needed to effect positive change are not provided or are removed at the first sign of a business slowdown, the initiative is destined to fail.
Without a cohesive long-term strategy, leadership’s attempts to implement an initiative may be perceived by the workforce as the “program of the month”.
The second element is one of inclusion of all members of the firm. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, not only adopted Six Sigma, but made it part of GE’s “DNA”.
Six Sigma became an integral part of how GE’s entire company operated. To make a leader’s vision reality, leaders must “sell” their vision to everyone in the organization. If the culture is to shift to one of greater empowerment, the employees need to believe that the leader is sincere and the change is real.
Some leaders may be motivated by the marketing advantage of “getting the piece of paper” for an ISO certification. Rather than recognizing the benefits that can be derived by envisioning and wholeheartedly supporting change as means of improving their business, it is often viewed as a quick fix to resolve a specific situation.
Still, others see Lean Manufacturing, or other transformational methods, as a “magic wand” that can turn a dysfunctional company around without getting everyone involved and without recognizing that teamwork and a Continuous Improvement philosophy are necessary ingredients for positive sustainable change.
Throughout the world, companies that have been successful at implementing change have been characterized by those two elements: a leader’s vision that has become a commitment by everyone in the organization. These companies are energized by the pursuit of a common organizational vision. In these companies, teams are commonly found as a method of investigating and solving problems and achieving goals.