If you want to achieve dramatic change in mindset and behavior, the fastest way is through provocation. By provocation, I mean deliberately evoking a visceral emotional response in others. There is nothing wrong with provocation if you do it right. It’s just that, as a leader, you ought to be provocative, but never a provocateur—the two are not the same.
While I sometimes hear CEOs complain about their lack of authority in a matrix organization, the most successful CEOs I know never do. They have all mastered the matrix, wield tremendous authority, and influence their own and the business’s advantage despite the ambiguities inherent to a matrix organization. If you are the CEO of a Japanese operation of a global company, work within a matrix organization, and you feel your authority is stymied, think again. You just might have far more power and authority than you realize, if you know how to wield these right.
A CEO client of mine has been asking his senior executives to be more “entrepreneurial” in their approach to the business, and he is certainly not the first one to do so.
Businesses can be their own worst enemies when business process supplants business thinking.
The CEO of a large industrial American company in Japan told me of difficulties he faces in buying from a division of a large Japanese industrial company, not because of a lack of will to sell on their part, but rather unnecessary and burdensome bureaucratic processes that were designed to meet Japanese government procurement requirements, the division’s primary customer. Quality control processes at the Japanese seller company were impractical and far beyond what the American company required, while lead-times and costs were excessive. Adherence to process, no matter how inappropriate, dominated thinking.
Exceptions are “exceptional” by definition, and always exist no matter how rare. Just because research in organizational change shows a strong correlation between certain factors of success and failure does not make these axiomatic. My most successful clients make themselves the success exception, and you can too.
In my experience, I have never seen any dramatic change of any significance gain widespread cross-organizational enthusiasm before implementation, but have often seen such change succeed nonetheless despite lack of initial buy-in. So I advise that action first, buy-in later works, as long a you do things right. There is no need to delay change to seek buy-in.
Understanding the rationale for change alone when accountability is lacking is never enough. As leader, you will find yourself having to do the work of your staff in their stead.
By accountability, I mean a leader ensures there are rewards for the right behaviors and good results, and penalties if there are not.
We are living in a post-distributor age. Gone are the days of cajoling distributors in representing your products to customers—often poorly. The best businesses of today make it easy, comfortable, and fast for customers to buy actually what the want and how they want it.
A friend of mine in Australia told me how he just bought a new Mini car completely online. He never visited a car dealership. Never test drove the car. He configured all the options online. It was delivered to his house, and he loves it.
Leaders cannot engage people. People must engage themselves. All a leader can do is clear the way. Despite this, I often find overreaching conclusions from employee engagement surveys about leader’s capability that ought not be drawn, and decisions based on those conclusions that ought not be made.
Engagement is either in the nature of a person or it is not. Some employees will never be engaged no matter what you say or do because the business you want is not what they want. That’s fine, but perhaps they should be in a different role or in a different company. Other employees are simply disengaged from life, not just from your business specifically. You cannot fix that.