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|Friday, January 21, 2011|
By Tom Cox
One of the most promising and fastest growing areas of management science is the area of organizational change. “Organizational change” is the fancy way of saying, we often know what we should do — we just don’t do it. Like diet, go to the gym, and so on. Turns out there’s a science for making that jump — from knowing we should do something, to actually doing it.
No charisma required
One wrong way to try to get buy-in is to rely on motivational speakers, or the charisma of the CEO (if the CEO has any). Why wrong? Because the outside motivation is, as Devane puts it, “buy-in for a day” — it’s temporary because it’s external.
Example: Integrated planning via the search conference
Microsoft had a division that wanted to go after a new market. They used the “Search Conference” — a roughly two day effort that alternates between large group meetings and small group analysis. Each small group cycle ends by reporting back out to the whole group. The whole group tackles all the major issues.
Example: World Cafe
Start with some small questions that feed each other. And set the room with round tables. At each table, there is a different question being asked and answered. One person “hosts” the table and provides continuity. After each round of discussion, people move to another table, changing who they are with, and take on the next question. Again, you end the day with action plans.
Keeping the process safe
Sometimes CEOs worry the group will take the company into a wrong direction. That’s not a problem – just set up the boundaries in advance of the meeting, directing the group up front as to which areas are open for innovation — maybe new markets are okay — and which areas are not open — maybe new products are off the table. Try to keep it at 4-6 boundaries or less.
Organizational change is tremendously difficult. The firm that masters this will profoundly out-perform the competition who have not.
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