Any leader can tell you that powerful vision, thoughtful strategy, and solid implementation are all critical to managing as well as transforming an organization, yet why do so many of us find ourselves in situations where vision becomes cloudy, plans stall and goals are left unmet? Three answers are right in front of us.
Harness Passion for a Shared Vision
The first key is to partner with the people we work with and those we serve in order to craft a shared vision.
If the future state is created in a vacuum, by a small group of creative but insulated leaders, however lofty and brilliant it may be, it will fall short of being realized to its maximum potential. Because people are invested in what they help create, the key to a successful vision is harnessing the passion of as many employees, customers, clients or constituents as possible. This is truly a shared vision. If we miss the opportunity to create a shared vision, we can’t expect people to see this vision as clearly as we do. As MIT professor and prolific organizational systems author, Peter Senge reminds us, “few, if any, forces in human nature are as powerful as a shared vision.” We cannot overlook the fact that stakeholder passion is a powerful engine that can be built.
Uncover Contradictions While Planning
The second key suggests that we include sufficient introspection in order to reveal our organization’s contradictions.
While our organizational planning efforts often include a thorough analysis of economic, political or social environments, our internal views typically only look at weaknesses and strengths. This swft internal analysis may overlook significant blocks that if gone unnoticed can take us on the wrong path. As Bill Staples in Transformational Strategy explains, “central to transformation is understanding the concept of contradictions.” Meaningful plans must include the ability to uncover and name the contradictions – the tensions that exist in an organization which simultaneously draw its members towards as well as away from the vision. We must ask how we may be contradicting ourselves. What are the ‘elephants in the room’ that may be holding us back? This exploration requires a courageous and sober look at our individual and collective blocks. In the absence of considering contradictions in our plans, we risk developing off-target strategies that will only stall the engine we’ve built.
Overcome the Fear of Learning During Implementation
The third key requires that our organization is one that embraces learning.
While consistent monitoring of a plan's progress is essential to making course corrections during implementation, how we go about making those adjustments is equally as important as making them. The process of uncovering the differences between our plan and our performance must be approached with a sincere spirit of curiosity rather than a sense of failure or opportunity to blame. Learning organizations - those which encourage risk-taking and value employee contributions - learn from experience and therefore increase their agility and ability to transform themselves. How do we create realistic measurements that serve as guideposts instead of lasers we can use to point out failure? If are not able to comfortably admit our frailties, mistakes or ignorance we miss the opportunity to accurately identify what we need to learn and make needed changes to our plans.
Cloudy vision, stalled plans, and unmet goals are not inevitable. Collaborative visioning can generate and leverage passion and clarity of the organization's vision. Planning that includes a sober look at contradictions can create meaningful strategies with practical momentum. And creating a learning culture to manage changes in the implementation stage can increase our ability to ensure that our alignment of passion, plans and performance is in view and within reach.
Lynda Baker will be teaching a one-day workshop,
at the University of Texas at Austin, November 14, 2017.
For information or registration visit the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.
3 Keys to Transforming Your Organization