Effective leadership engagement has been a primary cause of success or failure
to transform. I have seen both engaged and disengaged transformations. Almost all have sponsorship, but there is a degree
of engagement needed beyond merely allocating money to show support.
led a strategic project to improve the metrics dashboard for company-wide operations leadership. The old one was universally
disliked. People spent far more time arguing why the dashboard was wrong than they spent making decisions on what to do differently.
Rather than giving focus, it gave them distractions. The old dashboard had been developed and adopted in great haste, led
by a very small team of “experts,” with very little input from voice of the customer. It was symptomatic of a
culture that said, “Successful companies have this — we need one, too.” We wanted to win the race without
With input from the VP’s
and Directors, the new dashboard design fixed problems of inaccurate metrics summaries and false-positives on trouble alarms.
All was well until it came time for the programming changes. Operations had been stripped of programmers in one of our many
reorganizations. Corporate policy required the use of 3rd party programmers, with IT’s obscure internal approval process
moving at glacial speed. This dragged out the project by two months. Drucker’s observation — “Culture beats
Strategy” was proving true.
went wrong while transforming Leadership’s behavior around metrics. There were obstacles slowing down the work —
distractions of a split and a pending merger. These put pressure on spending and leaders’ time, making decision processes
even slower. The Leader Standard Work was changing (from that when the project started), giving less and less time for reflection
and new metrics. We were trying to do too many things at once, and did not put some things on hold, or drop them entirely,
to give our organization better focus on the critical things. By the time we were ready to roll out the finished dashboard,
Operations was reorganizing yet again, and Leadership had no time or energy to follow through and complete the project.
On another note, let me tell you of a successful transformation
through leadership engagement. We implemented sales and operations planning in less than six months, eventually reducing inventories
in our long-lead-time business by well over 50%, freeing up a lot of cash. The key was our vice president, who personally
led every monthly meeting, staying with it for well over a year, requiring full attendance and on-time preparation from both
Operations and Sales & Marketing groups. It was not going to be a good day if you arrived late or had not done your homework.
I remember him particularly because he rarely used PowerPoint, preferring to write on a chart pad. He was a hands-on guy,
and his personal attention to the set of rituals was critical to the success of the transformation.
In summary, if you want to have a successful transformation, you need both
sponsorship (resources) and clarity (focus) in the face of distractions. These are getting worse with the number of meetings
and emails caused by radical changes — mergers and acquisitions, splits, or new operating systems. We can’t delay
or stop these things, but we can choose to focus our leadership presence on finishing a few critical efforts. Have you decided
what those are? Do you know (for certain) how well they are going?
Your transformation needs your leadership, and effective leadership requires your engagement.
How do you need to spend your time to make 2018 a success?