When I was growing up, one of the surgeons in town was considered the best, however,
when we looked at his success rate it was lower than the next two best surgeons. The reason was that most of the high-risk
cases which the other surgeons would not even accept were referred to the best surgeon.
things happen in the management of organizations. Most organizations want to prove that they can get the desired improvement
on their own and decide to ask for help when everything has failed. Quite often, this is too late. By then their leaders have
already made up their minds that the hypothesis is not proven to be true:
• the program does
• the champion is not capable; and/or
the people are not supporting the program.
What are some of the causes of these situations? Unlike the surgeon’s case, where patients with late diagnosis
or emergencies due to accidents were referred to him, in organizations, new leaders and managers have new ideas and they want
to prove themselves. They might have overstated their capabilities and asking for help would only expose their weaknesses.
Many such people genuinely want to do a good job and they work hard to achieve the results they promised.
Unfortunately, with inadequate qualifications, experience and capabilities, they drive by trial-and-error —which I refer
to as “tweaking” with half knowledge and good intentions.
As they continue to tweak
without meeting expectations a lot of damage is done:
- cost of improvement is larger than
- constant change in direction demoralizes the people;
initiatives unduly stresses the people;
- some of the good and experienced whistle blowers will
have been fired; and
- there is loss of opportunity due to wrong direction for improvement
The senior leadership realizes that with the additional passage of time, more damage will be done and some hard decisions
need to be made. They base their decision on one or a combination of the hypothesis conclusions previously mentioned. At this
juncture, if the champion of the program asks for expert help, depending on the expert’s capability, he/she may be able
to show quick and significant improvement. The million dollar question is whether they are able to change the decision of
the senior leadership and undo the damage already done — leading to the next iteration of change. If they bring in another
inexperienced, incapable person, the tweaking starts all over again.
In the recent past, we have
seen that quite a few champions of change do not ask for the right help until it is too late; and, in most cases, the surgeon
is not able to save them from the inevitable decision of the senior leadership.
Here are some
tips to identify early when to ask for help:
- Leadership — annual plan is not signed
off by January
- Programs and projects — no slack at the end of the project
- Operations — production targets not met three days in a row
- Quality — issue
indicates early signs of a chronic problem
- Sales — quotes are trending down for two months
in a row
- Finance — not closing books by fourth day of the month
— no way to ID any of the above until it is too late