It’s a cliche that organizations and people resist change. This cliche is nicely embedded into change management initiatives to “manage resistance” – although way less frequently than you may think. When it happens it is done politely, in a civilized way, usually by cheerful facilitators.
I think this whole thing is comical.
Reality is much more brutal. A good analogy is if we thing about the organization as a body whose most vital functions we can’t control directly and quickly.
If we work on the execution of ideals that force the body out of inertia it will brutally pull us back. Marathon runners, long distance swimmers, perl divers experience this at critical milestones and martial artists understand how important it is to maintain form when the body already gave up: the (control over) form brings the body back.
Before we set out to execute our plans we must address the somatic reflexes: we must be aware of them and brutally repress them until they are transformed and obey us; yes: this will often result in nausea, dizziness, fainting or worse; if you are serious be prepared and follow through.
I have witnessed several corporate transformation initiatives both in mature and young organizations, where the concept and the strategy was beautiful, the management team was talented and capable but the somatic reflex of the organization sabotaged the efforts… and in the worst case scenarios leadership simply gave up.
The most typical scenario: we have become slow, we miss opportunities, the markets change way faster than we do. We MUST become nimble in our decision making process, in product launches, we must redefine how we reach our customers, we must hear and respond to their needs at light speed. We must transform the organization.
The company comes up with a new strategy, brings in a new leader or both and then starts executing as it’s usually done, following best practices, etc.; promises and commitments are made in context of the desired changes!
Then, very often quite early in the process, the Organization, including the project owners, the project sponsors, the very people who launched the initiatives, literally shows the middle finger. These are the moments when you realize that the organization does have an identity that integrates everybody after all!
Promises are broken, commitments are withdrawn, incredibly creative excuses are invented, the conditions that were so ideal at launch ALWAYS deteriorate and the person who is responsible for seeing it through is left alone, often isolated and literally suffocated. The body wants to be left alone.
In such instance the person responsible finds himself in a career defining moment (corporate transformations don’t come along that often…yet):
Maintain form or succumb to the body.
If the person simply gives up, it will be easy to rationalize the failure: it was a complex issue with many stakeholders involved, the challenge was bigger than expected, unforeseen circumstances forced management to reshuffle the budget, etc. The person will get great references (he didn’t step on toes after all) and move on.
IF the person decides to fight and the company actually completes the transformation most of the participants will be heros and the project will definitely decorate many resumes for years to come, contributing to stellar careers and everything that goes with it.
But the truth is: the person may easily die fighting (get fired, buried/demoted, etc.) even if he’s smart and does the basics right.
So if you find yourself in the driving seat of corporate transformation AND you are ready to fight the fight no matter what, don’t forget to address the somatic reflex of the organization:
- clearly articulate the patterns you want to change that currently define the organization; make everybody aware! Re-enforce their commitment. Get their permission to push them. Ask them to push you. Pick a team that is also ready to make sacrifices.
- clearly articulate what it means in practical terms to break the identified patterns; make everybody aware! Re-enforce their commitment. Get permission to push them! Ask them to push you! Have confidence that your team is also ready to make sacrifices.
- put the taboos on the board for everybody to see: doing the following (that pulls us back) is forbidden: it’s simply not an option for anybody and we will hold each other accountable.
It’ll be still a tough fight, taboos will be broken, you may still get fired, transferred, replaced, whatever: but you’ll know you have fought a good fight and fighting a good fight and loosing is much preferable in the leadership domain than fighting a bad fight and not getting hurt: nobody wins in a bad fight in the long run.
You are chairing a board and/or are the CEO of a company that has a brutal problem at hand, the kind that Nokia, RIM, Yahoo or to some degree HP faces in the technology arena nowadays: new players better understand the concept behind your business and consistently eat away your share of the pie; since you are stuck in the very pattern that made you successful or worst yet your patterns have been causing your troubles for years, time is not on your side.
What do you do?
If you take Yahoo’s, HP’s and Nokia’s example you try to solve this by hiring a new CEO (not sure if yahoo’s looking for a new CEO or a buyer right now. This point applies to when they hired Carol Bartz). If you follow RIM’s example, you’ll try to…. stick it out I guess.
Both hiring and sticking it out may work if you do it based on the right foundation. This foundation is painfully missing in most cases so fundamental questions are not being answered or worst yet, they are not being asked; questions that apply equally to hiring (leadership) and strategy.
When this foundation is not set up the context may very well be wrong for all your initiatives; when the context is wrong, the smartest people will inevitably fail or if they’re really smart they do everything in their power to create this context BEFORE they do anything at all. Step Zero!
What happened at Yahoo was that this foundation was simply missing; a clueless board brought in a (good) CEO to act like in a typical turnaround situation: cut cost, get rid of unprofitable businesses, focus on what’s supposed to be (arguable) strengths, etc. Yahoo’s situation was NOT a turnaround situation! When a company faces a strategic inflection point it’s more than turnaround: a new concept needs to be developed for a new strategy.
HP’s board is similar in that they have absolutely no concept moving forward. They just replaced one pure operations guy without the slightest trace of vision (Apotheker) with another (Whitman) to “lead HP”. Is that her mandate? …based on what exactly?? An important question to investors, employees and the new CEO.
If you do decide you will hire a new CEO, you must create your OWN concept so the CEO can develop the appropriate strategy.
If you can’t develop the concept, you’d better choose your next CEO based on whether (s)he can provide you with a convincing one. I don’t know how the hiring of Stephen Elop took place at Nokia, maybe it fell under this category, maybe not. Right now the company is not communicating anything that may hint at a concept behind the Windows 7 decision, which by itself doesn’t seem to be a long term strategy to me; if there isn’t any, Elop (just like Apotheker recently and Whitman soon at HP or Bartz at yahoo) will not stay longer than 3 years, but this is another story.
RIM is also making moves based on a strategy that seem to be lacking a foundation. Too much focus on competitive moves, too much reacting, bitter and stubborn fear lingering above the heads of the co-CEOs, not one initiative launched that’s based on a concept the company owns (unlike in their prime).
Doing anything without articulating the concept behind your strategy is like shooting in the dark: it smells like panic, it doesn’t look good and it’s flat out irresponsible!
By the time we need to get a number we are in line already. There is still a chance of turning back but the CONDITIONS are such, that most of us tend to just take a number; the events leading us to this point are results of us already being a number: taking one is a symbolical act: acceptance and, in the best scenario, resolve to make the best of it within GIVEN CONDITIONS.
Changing the conditions seems like a crazy idea: impossible or at the very least too late. Why fight it? By getting in line we will win. Some of us more some of us less, but inevitably, we will win. In fact it seems that the only way to lose is by being out of line. All words of wisdom from within the “line” follow the same patterns:
- get in line
- views, rules and behaviors in the line
- don’t quit (the line).
Views, rules and behaviors condition us. We adjust. If we rebel, we rebel according to them. If we challenge we do it within the boundaries; but we hardly ever challenge the boundaries. If we quit, we don’t quit the line; we just quit trying to win more.
What if we are in the wrong line? If we are uneasy about “taking a number”, chances are we are. To be certain we must step out.
At the very minimum:
- we MUST quit the line
- stop acting like insignificant numbers and
- follow our own direction.
Own views; own rules; acts of freedom: autonomy.
Is it worth talking about illusions?
Illusions are incomplete realities; incomplete in that the essential factor is missing. In other words: they are almost completely substantial. This is why they so dangerous: nobody argues with substance as reality. The word substantial comes from the Latin sub stare: to stand below something. The implication is: the “one standing” only exists relative to what it stands below, without which it is just an illusion.
In business terms: the existence of business functions, components, factors, or business as a whole is only an illusion if it lacks awareness of the essence it depends on. And as we all know the attention span of businesses rarely extends beyond the substantial.
From this context today all businesses are illusory, including the ones that are perceived to be doing fine. This caused a pervasive identity crisis; the identity crisis of companies, organizations and participating people. The right questions are never being asked, leadership is non-existent while it has become an industry (leadership development, consulting, etc.), the confusion about ethics is wide spread and people don’t have the slightest idea about what they are doing besides trying to make some money. From this point of view there isn’t much difference between street hustlers and CEOs: in fact the style elements (world view, thinking, values, speaking, behaviour, etc.) of the two are increasingly becoming the same.
Drawing attention to the areas of Leadership and Organization; Strategy, Identity and Transformation; Communications Protocols and Style Elements as the three main areas where illusions prevail, may trigger thinking that results in essential leadership, which is the prerequisite for the much needed integration on all levels of business, as well as between business and its strategic environment.
LEADERSHIP & ORGANIZATION
- Leadership can not exist in an environment that is subordinated to quantity (and its analogies, like profit, revenue, various KPIs, etc.).
- Leadership and business have no common denominator: one is based on principles, the other is based on money.
- Power is not subordinated to money. Never was, never will be.
- Economics can only be a third grade factor (at best) in an organic organization. The first one is principle the second one is power.
- Money is perceived to be power only by 3rd grade people and below.
- The concept behind the modern term of shared leadership disregards (often denies) the vertical direction of organic organization, and assumes that leadership is a specialized function. This concept is the brainchild of specialists, and it has no foundation from the highest point of view, i.e. from the point of view of principles and integration.
- There is no organization without principle(s) and power. Money is not a principle and it is not power. Consequently there are no organizations today, only businesses. That, which is called an organization today is a pseudo-unity, which has been assembled based on functions and inferior goals (not purpose!), thus the first step in the “realization” of these organizations is infinitely mechanical, and with time, mechanization will proliferate, which results in increasing inferiority.
- It is not the organization that makes (breeds, cultivates, “develops”, etc.) the leaders, and it is especially not –horribile dictu!- the HR department; it is the leader that calls forth organization with the appropriate structure. Leaders exist without happen to be leading an organization but (organic) organizations do not exist without a leader.
- The “concept” of the organization is its highest point. There is only decline from there: operations without leadership therefore are in analogy with decline. Today this applies even to an organic organization. The leader must actively represent the concept, which must be based on principles. Once organization is under way, the leader’s role is to exercise maximum control, i.e. to stop involution, and ensure integration. In short: he must ensure that principles are manifest throughout the organization.
- Leadership is qualitative, and its direction is vertical. Its starting point is the centre and it is oriented upwards: that is for transcendence; transcendence of current states: organizational and individual. In other words it integrates “up”.
- Management is quantitative and its direction is horizontal. It integrates towards the centre. While it is fundamentally quantitative, it does have qualitative elements, which are manifest in the function of (horizontal) integration.
- Leadership, purpose, organization and strategy. These are not silos. No matter what the organization’s function, it is not finance, hr, technology, marketing or any other function that is responsible for leadership, purpose, organization and strategy. It is the leader who, as the main integrator, incorporates leadership, purpose organization and strategy; all in one.
- In polar opposition to business organization there is organic organization. One is mechanical and lifeless the other is powerful and transcendent. From this point of view alone, with the exception of very few, today all organizations are business organizations: business, military, government, academia, religion.
- Artificial organizations are put together because otherwise they would never come to life: they can not have a true purpose; without any connection to principles this is not possible.
- Opposite to the common sentiment, the “evolution” of an organization is not from the parts towards the whole; it is not based on quantitative factors, where complexity is measured by the number of units. The evolution of the organization is rhythmic, in that it starts with the whole, which is the concept and the purpose of the organization, through the parts, leading back to the whole, through an intense effort of integration, following an up-down-up rhythm, whereas the first step towards the realization of the purpose is in the same time the step farthest away from it. This applies only to organic organizations. In modern business organization the first step is the closest to the concept, and the subsequent steps continue leading farther away from it.
- With some compromise data maybe considered as the smallest unit of organization. But an organization does not consist of data or information: it’s not a sum total of data. This view is unacceptable.
- Today both money and information is mishandled, but it’s not enough: money is treated as information and information is treated as money.
- Leadership is intrinsically elitist: it presumes the presence of superiority.
- The inferior rightfully perceives the integrity of the superior as a direct threat to his existence.
- Today the dominant view flat out denies the existence of superiority. Therefore the whole environment is counter-leadership; to say the least.
- With the denial of superiority, degrees of inferiority are being considered as levels of superiority. Naturally this is only pseudo superiority, which can be easily disclosed by its purely quantitative nature. Superiority is qualitative: it has nothing to do with “amounts”, like amount of experience, amount of knowledge, etc.
- Acknowledging/sensing/understanding the superiority of those above us in the true hierarchy indicates that our range of potentials includes superiority. Those who truly deny superiority do so because their “reality” does not contain it. Not potentially, not virtually and certainly not actually.
- The confidence of the inferior individual comes from numbers: there are more of us. In so called moments of truth quantity is rarely present. Such moments crumble the inferior individual; while such moments rarely happen in the life of the inferior individual, superior persons are literally living in continuous moments of truth.
- The small man is practical, opportunistic and vulgar. As they aptly describe him: “he does not care about higher ideals until he fills his stomach”. Even when he feels safe, the realm of the superior is an abstraction for him; he may discuss it between sports, cars or the current TV show, but only briefly and without any effect on him. Numerous small men usurp leadership positions, but they will never be leaders; no organization maybe centered around them.
- The story of the self improvement/self-help book hero is not a heroic story. It’s a repulsive story of senseless mechanical formulas with inferior style elements. Fundamentally there is no difference between a self help book hero and an MBA hero.
- It is laudable if people reach back to the great leaders of the past for leadership advice; it is preposterous however if they, grotesquely, adjust those advices to the inferior conditions of the present, or make it fit their own inferiority. There is no compromise in leadership as upward integration: it is a heroic praxis…
- ….It is even more disgusting if authors usurp the names of great leaders for their own personal name, or as it is commonly called : for building their own personal brand.
- Today, at this moment, each and every organization is so far away from the ideal state as it has never been; nobody is positioned where they should be, nobody is doing what they should be. …and there is no sign of a turnaround.
- Each and every organization today is in an identity crisis. Not because there is confusion about their identity. They simply do not have an identity.
- Each and every organization must be transformed. The required transformation however can not be delivered by so called “transformation consultants”. It must start outside of the corporate setting.
- Today’s leadership does everything in their “power” to maintain an illusion of order to the degree that they seriously believe that the inert fall that they are experiencing is “good change” and they manage it well.
- Lies have never been like this: they are honest. But under the surface of this personable, friendly, upbeat honesty there is a deep identity crisis. Everybody knows they should be doing/thinking/seeing something else. Today “people don’t believe what they know and don’t know what they believe” (Bela Hamvas).
- The other type of lie is the habitual lie. It is so ingrained in the mass that it is almost expected. This is one reason why liars and thieves are not ostracized in the corporate world: who would ostracize them?
- Everything that happens in an illusory setting is an illusion; The bizarre phenomena of corporate training with fireworks, offsite team building exercises, etc. is a testament to this.
- There is no such thing as absolute illusion. This would be a contradiction. Illusion means incomplete reality, which is in analogy with lack of clarity. This is why it is so dangerous.
- The rational mind, which is incapable to look behind facts, inadvertently contributes to the growth of illusion. Such minds desperately need the presence of a force of integration, which can only come from the supra rational realm. They sense this, yet they deny it. Rationally speaking they have no other choice. Thus what makes a rational person great (specialists and integrating specialists), is not the perfection of their rational faculties, but their attitude towards the superior. An intuition that is analogous with faith.
- Leadership has become a reward: not for mediocrity but for inferiority: there is nothing superior about people in leadership roles today.
- Only few people expect superiority from leaders and even they do so only unknowingly. These people are the disappointed ones. For the overwhelming majority, superiority is beyond comprehension: these are the cynical ones. Since in mechanical organizations there is no true path of realization, it’s unavoidable that the disappointed people will become cynical. The cynical ones never become disappointed: that would presuppose the evolution of the organization.
- Supremacy is the foundation of respect. Supremacy, dominance, control: analogous terms. In the presence of true supremacy those, who occupy roles lower on the hierarchy but are predisposed for transcendence, relate to those superior to them, with respect. Superior men, since their range of potentials fully encloses those of the inferior, possess full understanding. However superior men should never accommodate (adjust themselves to) the inferior. The inferior in turn, due to his lack of understanding should never “challenge” the superior. Challenging principles is senseless revolution.
- All books on strategy and leadership on the shelves of the business section in bookstores are worthless. Each and every one of them has the same foundation, propagates the same purpose, has the same style and is written for the same audience: the mass. In fact the mass is their foundation and their purpose. This statement, like all others, is unintelligible from the practical (lower) point of view.
- People’s purpose is not work or work for money (to buy them “freedom” or whatever other purpose it may serve). If you make them believe it is, or you believe it yourself no matter how nice you are to them, what benefits you provide, how creative the work environment you create is, what autonomy you allow, or how much you care: you are lying to them and to yourself.
- Leadership is not chronicled in a resume. Resumes are appropriate for specialists and integrating specialists only. For specialized integrators but especially for the main integrator it is impossible to have a resume. But again: most people occupying roles of the top echelon of leadership are “career leaders”, just usurping power: they are mostly specialists and integrating specialists (at best): they simply don’t belong there.
- The current educational system, including all schools and training programs, are set up exclusively to produce specialists.
STRATEGY, IDENTITY & TRANSFORMATION
- The foundation of strategy can only be one single thing: identity. Without identity there is no strategy.
- A reactive strategy, i.e. one that is determined largely by market conditions, is not a strategy.
- Identity is not to be confused with brand identity. Brand identity is only the style element of identity; the reflection of the core.
- Identity is the reason for an organization to exist. Without identity organizations are just illusions; since they lack essence, they don’t have anything, they don’t think anything, they don’t accomplish anything. Anything they perceive to be having, thinking or accomplishing is just an illusion which easily crumbles at the slightest probe of the intellect.
- The reason why companies are always looking outside, to competitors, the strategic environment, trends, etc., is because they don’t have identity: there is nothing to look at on the inside. An organization with identity transforms the whole strategic environment.
- Some may ask the question: can an existing organization be given an identity? The answer is no. At least not without transforming it first.
- Nobody can ask people to identify with corporate goals: becoming number x in the market, producing superior products, etc; “purposes”, like contributing to the well being of humanity are simply illusions and not to be taken seriously in current settings.
- The more “humanistic” a modern organization’s purpose is, in actuality the more destructive they are to humanity. This especially applies to those, whose mission is openly and obviously just a PR stunt.
- Transformation is only possible if there is one person suitable for transformation, and he is in the right role.
- Elements of transformation are principle, principle based concept, control, power, awareness and a synthesized praxis. These are terms surrounded by complete confusion today. These, and related terms cannot be grasped by mechanic, rational thinking. It requires supra-rational intellect, which presumes a truly spiritual orientation, i.e. supremacy.
- A true leader maybe aware of „strategy schools” but considers them as entertainment only. If you create strategy, you must not be thinking in strategic terms.
- The significance of facts is 3rd grade only; at best.
- Identity is beyond facts. Facts relate to identity as the periphery of the circle to the centre.
COMMUNICATIONS PROTOCOLS & STYLE ELEMENTS
- The four actors in almost any organization are, in a hierarchical order, starting at the top: one main integrator, a few specialized integrators, large number of integrating specialists and the specialists. These are the true roles in the organization, the rest are functions. Functions should be centered around roles.
- Each one of the four actors may exist potentially and actually.
- A specialist may never become a main integrator; maximum an integrating specialist.
- The main integrator, the representative of the highest degree of vertical integration, is not a bottom up “career”; it is a mode of existence, just like the other three roles. The only way to maintain the illusion of that everybody is a leader is to completely quantify the definition of leadership, which also automatically voids articulated values of any quality, turning them into illusions.
- The organization should enable people to occupy their role and to actualize and transcend it.
- Once a specialized integrator reaches the next level, he will likely leave the organization; either way his relationship to the main integrator will change substantially.
- If possible, the main integrator should never communicate directly with specialists in a discursive manner.
- Nobody in the organization should make statements about things that are (should be) either obvious or well known to their audience; “we treat employees fairly” is a good example of this: never make such statement, just do it! Another one is: “sales sucks, we must improve it”… and many others.
- The specialized integrators’ development (realization) is insured by the main integrator and/or the great masters; the main integrator’s evolution is ensured only by himself and the great masters. The top echelon does not need education in the conventional sense. The integrating specialists’ and specialists’ education is ensured by schools and training programs. Their realization is insured, indirectly, by the main integrator, through the mediation of specialized integrators.
- Great men are those who are
- aware of their position and role
- oriented upward
- focused on actualizing their potentials
- In a highly organic organization cynicism and sabotage rarely surfaces. If it does, it comes from people who are usurping their role and the corresponding power. If this happens in an organic organization, these people must be immediately eliminated, they can not be “transformed”, i.e. they can’t be lead back to their role and corresponding function. In today’s mechanical, syncretic organizations everybody usurps power, so the whole organization must be transformed; cynicism and sabotage is simply a clear sign of no leadership and a total lack of integration.
- If the main integrator’s realization is not perfect, or near perfect, the weak spots in the organization become apparent. One of the main signs of this is simply the “revolt of the specialists”.
- A person with integrity does not subordinate the superior to the inferior. The lower we go on true the hierarchy, the more compromises we encounter in this regards.
- The superior/elite is present among all four players of the organization. Organic organization is in the sign of superiority.