As a thought leader, author, educator, and consultant on humanist manufacturing, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
We began an exploration of the topic of change management last week. In that context, we focused on the work of Dr. John Kotter, a leading authority on leadership and change. Our focus for the coming weeks will be transitioning from a macro-level review of the change topic to a micro-level look at the eight steps in Kotter's change framework. We will begin with step one to create a sense of urgency for change.
What's the sense of urgency in your organization that something significant has to be done in order to not just survive, but to win big? – Dr. John Kotter
A successful company defines strategic initiatives as coordinated and targeted activities executed with urgency to make transformational vision achievement possible. A quick review of the change process is the 8 Steps to Accelerate Change eBook. The steps are now known as accelerators that include:
1. Create a sense of urgency
2. Build a guiding coalition
3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives
4. Enlist a volunteer army
5. Enable action by removing barriers
6. Generate short-term wins
7. Sustain acceleration
8. Institute change
Creating a sense of urgency is essential to carrying out the transformational change. The work requires a delicate balance of what I describe as optimal tension.
Keeping an entire workforce in a heightened and ideal state of urgency is no simple task. The organization's leadership will need to develop an honest and ongoing two-way dialogue to keep tuned to the overall condition of the employee base. Each of us has a point where we can perform at an optimal level where the individual and teamwork are not allowed to slip. Yet there is enough optimal tension to stretch us beyond our current performance expectations without causing damage. Ultimately, we want to push them to a point where each member of the organization is performing at their peak and then weaving everyone together to reach the maximum full potential of the entire unit.
We will first explore the concept of "optimal tension" as a mechanical model. Many machines use a belt and pulley system to turn various shafts. For example, individuals with an internal combustion engine who have opened their vehicle's hood will see a serpentine belt. The camshaft pulley often drives a belt that turns the air conditioning compressor, alternator, power steering pump, and water pump pullies. The proper operation relies on tensioning the belt at a level tight enough not to slip but not so tight that it puts too much side load on any of the shafts. The belt has a tight side where the drive shaft pulls the belt and minimal slack on the opposite side.
The belt example applies to motivating a workforce. The drive pulley is the leadership of an organization. The motor's RPMs turning the drive pulley are equivalent to setting the organization's pace, and the torque level is the changing intensity. Like the automotive components in the above example, the pulleys are generally different diameters that we should consider when creating an ideal performance for each department. Furthermore, the belt's tight side can equate to the need to pull some people along, while the slack side would be those that will follow the lead. To create the highest potential for maximum motivation, the organization needs to design a plan that fits the varied needs of each workforce member. Each of us has a point where we can perform at an optimal level where our individuality and teamwork are not allowed to slip. Yet there is enough "optimal tension" to stretch us beyond our current performance expectations without causing damage.
When employees are in optimal tension, they are eager to come to work to make an impact. Aligning this with the organization's need for a new future and sustaining a sense of commitment and urgency over a long period becomes a reality. The workforce must be in a proper state of being to achieve a desirable future for the organization. Otherwise, they will experience burnout and disappointment if the urgency is staged and forced, leading to change management failure
Creating a legitimate sense of urgency is essential to carrying out transformational change. The work requires a delicate balance of what I describe as optimal tension. A state where leadership lifts the workforce to the level of their highest potential for maximum impact through developing a plan that fits the varied needs of each employee to be their best self.
Individuals interested in further understanding the topic should read A Sense of Urgency by Dr. John Kotter. He shares a powerful, helpful tool for navigating the chaotic times of the business world. In particular, Kotter guides properly handling a crisis that can turn it into an opportunity to improve the organization.
My lunch with John Kotter mentioned last week led him to ask me to review a draft of his Our Iceberg is Melting book. It resulted in an eventual conversation where he told me he knew I would be blunt with him. At first, I thought that this was a criticism that he insisted was not, as he further responded that he was at a point in his career when he found it difficult for people to be honest with him. I was grateful he had that faith in me after only a 90-minute lunch.
Next week's blog will continue exploring Kotter's change process by looking at his step of building a guiding coalition to transition to humanist manufacturing.
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