Today's businesses operate in a complex world, yet they continue to use the same old paradigms for leading change. It's time to explore new possibilities.
In Is It Time to Lead Imperfect Change?, the Lazy Leader questioned the need to plan in detail when implementing large-scale change. Indeed, he argued that detailed planning doesn’t guarantee success. In this post, he looks at change in complex organizations and suggest that we must choose to lead change in new ways.
Leadership for Change in Complex Organizations
Whilst cohesive teams and robust processes may be necessary for managing day-to-day issues, they do not encourage freedom of thought or the learning that is needed in times of sustained change.
We return to the machine metaphor: during periods of stability and certainty, there tends to be a high level of agreement. The organization is less creative and acts much like a machine.
In contrast, when we are far from certainty and agreement, we need innovation and creativity. The organization has to be open to new ideas and learning. The organization needs flexibility to let strategy emerge.
I haven’t the slightest idea how to change people, but I still keep a long list of the prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out. – David Sedaris
And this is where some organizations struggle: prescriptive strategy is restrictive. Consequently, businesses fail to adapt and change because of their culture, politics, and routines that are based on the view that change is the result of planned moves.
In reality, this doesn’t happen. Strategies for change are rarely logical or rational. Indeed, strategic decisions are often the result of external factors and political bargaining between those who wield power and influence.