Change IS what it is, which means it is neither good nor bad. However, change is experienced as exhilarating or downright bewildering dependent upon one’s level of understanding of what’s actually going on in real-time, or one’s ability to cope with change.
Change is a discrepancy between the current state of a business system and its desired state. As such, change represents the problem and the solution, but not at the same time.
A problem―the current state of a business system―can only be identified and measured if the desired state is known; otherwise, what IS your problem anyway?
A solution can only be effective when the problem is properly diagnosed first―prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.
Conflicts of Interest
You may ask, where does the Chief Executive come into play, and why should she or he be bothered at all? Well, real change is systemic in nature. That means its effects are not limited to a single process or department. In other words, effects of change interfere with the individual performance of multiple hierarchical leaders, and solutions will have to be implemented within the domains for which they are responsible.
Because each hierarchical leader is personally responsible and accountable for the successful performance of his or her own department, no leader would want another hierarchical leader―one of his or her peers―in charge of diagnosing the root cause of the problem and identifying and implementing a solution enterprise-wide.
This conflict of interest can be circumvented by appointing a dedicated project manager who operates independently from any of the hierarchical leaders. Ultimately, the project manager’s success depends on receiving sufficient Executive Sponsorship for Change; i.e. delegation of authority and allocation of resources.
The Key Challenge
Statistics show that seventy-five to ninety-six percent of all incidents―i.e. accidents and near-misses―involve human error. Mind you, human error is NOT the cause of failure but a SYMPTOM of a failing system. As a result, you can find yourself in a situation where everyone agrees on experiencing a significant problem while just doing their job. Although many of such systemic problems are often blamed on the proverbial rotten apple that spoils the barrel, it is the system’s design, structure/organization, implementation/operation, maintenance, and management that is at fault. And, ultimate responsibility for these functions rests uniquely with the CEO because he or she has ultimate authority to make changes to the business system. Hence, the need for Executive Sponsorship for Change.
Providing Executive Sponsorship for Change to an independent project manager is a significant and far-reaching decision. No CEO would delegate authority to an independent project manager, and allocate additional resources, if they doubt the problem is systemic, and involves human error, for which they themselves are ultimately responsible.
Doubt and fear of failure are products of unfamiliarity with the business system; not knowing what it is doing in real-time, or its capability and capacity to produce unintended and unwanted results. IBM’s study “Capitalizing on Complexity” reported that two-third of their participating leaders admitted to being overwhelmed by complexity and thus by change. If that wasn’t enough of a shocking revelation, they added that the preferred solution to solve their perplexity was “creativity”; not creating understanding how a complex business functions as a singular, unique, integrated, and open system.
Why do executives who admitted to being overwhelmed by complexity and change spend so much time studying and discussing issues regarding profitability, efficiency, strategy, agility, leadership, creativity, or innovation?
I’m only asking because these issues are systemic in nature, and in order to realize their desired outcomes requires the implementation of an enterprise-wide solution, which requires Executive Sponsorship for Change, which depends on the executive decision maker’s level of understanding of what’s actually going on in real-time, and his or her ability to cope with change. Have you noticed that we just went full-circle, back to the beginning of this article?