Usually every organization or department you work with tells you they are successful. “Yes, we are doing great! Our profit has grown, our customers are very happy with us and we take great care of our people.” Over time once you get to know them better, you are sometimes blown away by experiencing the complete opposite.
It’s like an experience you can have in a theme park. As a visitor you are amazed by the world that is created and the storytelling around it. But just before entering the ride in the attraction, an employee opens a door which leads to the backstage environment; you get to see the messy and disorganized world that completely differs from the world you are supposed to believe is the reality.
These little peeks behind the normally closed doors of companies give you an insight in what might be a reflection of the company’s culture. A culture that will expose itself over time in all sorts of forms and shapes, good and bad ones. This subject is hard to discuss as not everyone is receptive to these signals, it’s a tough discussion and it is seen as an attack on The System, mostly by (people benefiting from) The System itself.
The road to success is filled with more struggle one can ever think of when starting a journey. There is no paved path to success. The behind the scenes is almost never a polished landscape.
But while business is growing, leaders of companies that have not created a healthy culture and a strong governance around decision-taking, might have created a non-sustainable organization. Its success will greatly depend on external factors not changing too dramatically – like i.e. a complete shift in the IT market.
In the 20 years I’ve worked in IT, I’ve seen big differences in how organizations and IT departments respond to smaller and larger shifts in the IT marketplace. I’m trying to understand these mechanisms so that I’m better able to deal with them.
First thing I did was trying to recognize patterns and categorize the different type of responses I’ve seen. This is what I’ve come up with:
Internal focus onlyThis could be on anything, as long as they don’t have to talk to and about the changed needs of customers.
Active inertiaRecognizing the change, but not fully understanding it, and keep on doing the same thing but harder.
Just leave it as it isRecognizing the change, and understanding the effort that needs being put into changing the culture to survive. And then choosing not to do this.
- Smoke and mirrors
People giving others the feeling they are indispensable; hide the frailty of their solutions built; shifting responsibility; no clue of where to go; just responding on operational stuff and make a fuss about small things.
To begin with the end in mindRecognizing the change and even though you are entering unexplored grounds, visualize (together) where you want to go to, and then start doing things with the end in mind.
The first four types of responses I’ve seen the most. In some organization I recognize one pattern, in some others two. And I’ve seen organizations who have shown all four patterns.
What I noticed is that every one of these organization has people in their workforce who seem to understand the change they are in, and who are able to give words to what the company should do – and should stop doing – to stay relevant. When asked why they can not get this message inside the heads of the company leaders, it mostly comes down to that people feel it is a fight between reason and power.
I became interested in what an organization needs to do to prepare itself for future major changes in the market; how to become a category 5. To begin with the end in mind type of organization. What kind of system, culture and people do you need? Books, blog posts and talks with successful leaders, combined with my own experiences, gave me more insights.
I decided to write about it and share it in a short series of blog posts, of which this is the first one. In the following posts, I elaborate on shapers and organizational structures. And how shapers can use one of the organizational structures to make change happen.
This post is #1 in a series of 4. The first post was about recognizing patterns in organizations who deal with change. The second post is about the role and characteristics of shapers who create change. The third post is about the three structures every organization has, a good understanding of this this helps in how to create value. The fourth post is sort of a wrap up and tries to answer the question why organizations don’t adapt to a changing environment.