PART I THE CHANGE PROBLEM AND ITS SOLUTION
Chapter 1— Transforming Organizations: Why Firms Fail
By any objective measure, the amount of significant, often traumatic, change in organizations has grown tremendously over the past two decades. Although some people predict that most of the reengineering, restrategizing, mergers, downsizing, quality efforts, and cultural renewal projects will soon disappear, I think that is highly unlikely. Powerful macroeconomic forces are at work here, and these forces may grow even stronger over the next few decades. As a result, more and more organizations will be pushed to reduce costs, improve the quality of products and services, ...view middle of the document...
As a seasoned and self-confident executive, he worked day and night to launch a dozen new initiatives to build business and margins in an increasingly competitive marketplace. He realized that few others in his organization saw the dangers and possibilities as clearly as he did, but he felt this was not an insurmountable problem. They could be induced, pushed, or replaced. Two years after his promotion, Adrien watched initiative after initiative sink in a sea of complacency. Regardless of his inducements and threats, the first phase of his new product strategy required so much time to implement that competitor countermoves offset any important benefit. He couldn't secure sufficient corporate funding for his big reengineering project. A reorganization was talked to death by skilled filibusterers on his staff. In
frustration, Adrien gave up on his own people and acquired a much smaller firm that was already successfully implementing many of his ideas. Then, in a subtle battle played out over another two years, he watched with amazement and horror as people in his division with little sense of urgency not only ignored all the powerful lessons in the acquisition's recent history but actually stifled the new unit's ability to continue to do what it had been doing so well. Smart individuals like Adrien fail to create sufficient urgency at the beginning of a business transformation for many different but interrelated reasons. They overestimate how much they can force big changes on an organization. They underestimate how hard it is to drive people out of their comfort zones. They don't recognize how their own actions can inadvertently reinforce the status quo. They lack patience: ''Enough with the preliminaries, let's get on with it." They become paralyzed by the downside possibilities associated with reducing complacency: people becoming defensive, morale and short-term results slipping. Or, even worse, they confuse urgency with anxiety, and by driving up the latter they push people even deeper into their foxholes and create even more resistance to change. If complacency were low in most organizations today, this problem would have limited importance. But just the opposite is true. Too much past success, a lack of visible crises, low performance standards, insufficient feedback from external constituencies, and more all add up to: "Yes, we have our problems, but they aren't that terrible and I'm doing my job just fine," or "Sure we have big problems, and they are all over there." Without a sense of urgency, people won't give that extra effort that is often essential. They won't make needed sacrifices. Instead they cling to the status quo and resist initiatives from above. As a result, reengineering bogs down, new strategies fail to be implemented well, acquisitions aren't assimilated properly, downsizings never get at those least necessary expenses, and quality programs become more surface bureaucratic talk than real business substance.