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Why Your Growth Initiative Just Stalled

by Guest Writter
David Martin and Kathy Quinn

Successful growth initiatives require an organizational shift at two levels, above and below the surface level. Even something as seemingly obvious as prioritizing the customer in an organization where this has not historically been the case demands more than a detailed list of new customer-centric processes. Processes, which are the visible, above the surface level things, change activities and put the organization in motion. They do not, however, change the hidden, below the surface level things, the organization’s default system, which is where initiatives derail.

It’s what you can’t see that will hurt you.

All organizations have a hidden operating system that makes everything run. However, because it is not transparent and not understood, when implementing growth initiatives it is short-changed or not considered. Without it, though, initiatives such as prioritizing customer take longer, cost more and do not yield desired results. Understanding this is paramount to success.

All growth initiatives are culture change initiatives.

What we’re really talking about is culture change work. Every growth initiative has a culture change component. In the customer example, it is shifting to a customer-centric culture. This is a longer-term proposition. It does not happen overnight.

The dynamics of change have nothing to do with process.

Successfully shifting culture requires pre-emptively addressing the naturally occurring dynamics of change. In our prioritized customer example, a range of strategies that engage associates in the new way of thinking about customer must be created. It’s not enough that there will be new processes. How the organization thinks about customer is changing which, in turn, affects how each associate performs his or her job. Where there was once clarity there is now ambiguity. Some associates might not even believe the customer needs to be prioritized.

A manageable starting point.

While the list of what needs to happen is comprehensive, our work has shown that simply understanding the following three dynamics of change builds alignment, establishes a shared knowledge base and reduces stress.

1.  Change takes time. It is not possible to change something overnight that has been established for years. Resolute determination and whirlwind activity do not make change happen faster. Change is internal and all the external animations cannot change this.

2.  Change evokes fear. Even good change kindles a range of fears. These may include: I may lose my position, I no longer know how I am supposed to perform my job; I may lose my power; I may lose my livelihood and the list goes on. Understanding this is not enough. There must be a plan for dealing with it.

3.  Change needs a story. When people do not know what is going on they create their own stories and these stories are almost always negative and wrong. Driven by fear, these made-up stories drive change resistant behaviors. As senior management, you need to tell your story well and often or you will find others telling their fear-based version.

Avoid the minefield.

An organization’s operating system is the area most often downplayed or overlooked during growth initiatives. When prioritizing activities, it is relegated to: “I can’t see it, I don’t know how to deal with it and it will take a long time. ”Given this perspective, it is not surprising it is given short shrift. However, ignoring it is equivalent to walking through a minefield. If not addressed it will derail the effort, you just won’t know how or when.


About the Authors

Experts in business growth execution, David Martin and Kathy Quinn, help executives from across the country and around the world deliver on their best ideas by identifying and overcoming the hidden, invisible barriers that derail success. Having a great idea is the easy part, but it’s only the beginning. With David and Kathy’s guidance, clients find their way to realizing massive, lasting change.  www.growthvault.com

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