In the wake of the recent election, there has been a lot of talk about the types of changes we’ll be facing over the next few years. The continuing analysis of the election and a recent plane ride have given me a good refresher course on some of the critical factors that enable a successful change in an organization or doom it to failure.
The day after the election, I was traveling home to Houston and I took the advice that I give to my two college-age sons: if you really want to know what’s going on with a particular issue, make sure you get at least two different points of view and the truth is likely to fall somewhere in the middle. So I bought a copy of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to read their analyses of the election results. Needless to say, the newspapers had some fairly different interpretations of the same sets of facts. Sometimes, it was a matter of drawing different conclusions from the same set of data and other times it was a matter of which facts were emphasized and in what order that would lead a reader in two different directions depending on which paper I was reading.
The following week, I was traveling home after our project team delivered the final presentation to our executive sponsors. Our team had recommended a number of changes to the client’s supply chain; some fairly straight forward and others that would require a significant change in culture. As it happens, I sat next to a gentleman who helps companies change cultures. We had a good conversation, helped by our third row-mate, who bought drinks for the row, about a number of different things. However, one thing that stuck with me was his premise that an organization’s results are determined by its culture. In this organizational model, actions drive results, but beliefs drive actions. Thus, to change the results in a company, one must change the beliefs held by the people who impact the results.
Once again, I was reminded that the key to a successful change is the people who run the process. If they are not engaged and if they don’t believe that the change will be a good one, you’re in for a very rough ride. Further, when trying to understand the current beliefs that drive the actions that drive the success of your change, it’s best to seek out more than one source of information.