Detailed strategies and excessive planning can cripple your vision for business change.
Seeking perfection does not guarantee success. Indeed it often leads to paralysis.
In contrast leading imperfect change can propel the organisation forward.
In How to Sustain Organisational Change I describe the role projects have when implementing beneficial business change. I argue that sustainable change is achievable when people are engaged and urgency is increased.
Dolphins, Not Whales is about encouraging quick wins — delivering results rapidly — by breaking large-scale change into smaller manageable chunks.
An incomplete solution that allows forward movement is better than no solution and no movement. – Dan Rockwell
How to Lead Imperfect Business Change
I’m engaged in a large-scale endeavour that promises to deliver significant benefit to a number of organisations. It’s true that a lot of effort has gone into preparing the vision, strategic plans, business case, specifications, design documents and so on.
This got me thinking … should we take a good-enough approach or try to plan every little detail? Are we better off leading imperfect change?
Organisations are often depicted as machines. For example, the surgical team within a hospital or fire-fighters responding to an emergency follow the machine metaphor. In these circumstances it’s right that they work like a well oiled machine. Failure of one part can be catastrophic!
However, the machine metaphor doesn’t fit the rapidly changing organisation where creativity and innovation are the norm. Business change is complex. Strategy emerges, strategy evolves. What the organisation needs is flexibility. The ability to adapt and flex as context changes.
Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius… – Marilyn Monroe
Back to my question … should detailed strategic plans be replaced by documents that simply describe the general direction an organisation is heading? And should this approach also apply to business planning?
I guess I’m thinking that I’m no longer confident that detailed planning guarantees an outcome. That the modern organisation is significantly different to the traditional machine-metaphor organisation. It is a complex system.
As Kotter says sustaining change needs urgency. And, traditional approaches to management tend to put the brakes on change. We need courage to take risks and an appetite for leading imperfect business change.
Do organisations spend too much time analysing and over-specifying things when they design and plan business change? Maybe complexity is bested by simplicity?
As I’ve said before, successful business change requires momentum and the creation of short-term wins. Keeping things simple may help us achieve this.
What do you think? Is it time for a change?
Are you practised in leading imperfect change?
Creative Commons image courtesy Phototrophy.