Your own worst enemy
I witness lean change agents get in their own way all the time. I’m sure I do it too. This is a common example that really can hold back an entire organization on the journey. It is the response to an inflection point.
Change agents, of any kind of change, often begin by pushing against the organization. The find the ideas, see the possibilities, develop the passion, begin the selling, and prime the application. Depending on the magnitude of the change, this can be the condition for years.
At some point you reach an inflection point. This inflection point is when the organization starts to get it, make it their own, and things begin to take off. But if change agents aren’t careful, they can take this inflection point and send it off in the wrong direction.
When that inflection point is reach, if the change agents try to maintain control of the change, they will lose, one way or another. They will either lose because their efforts to maintain control of the situation are successful, and the organization loses their early seeds of passion and the effort begins to die. Or they will lose, but the organization wins, if they change agents fail to maintain control and the organization takes ownership of the change and makes it their own.
For the organizational change to be successful, the change agents must either give up control willingly or lose it unwittingly. The organization must make it their own. They must develop their own passion, their own capabilities, and their own reason why they are engaged in the change.
Why would a change agent possibly resist this? There are two reasons. The first is habit. When you’ve taken ownership over something and nursed it along for a year or even 3 years, that is now how you operate and it is difficult to change that behavior in yourself.
The second reason is that when the organization takes ownership, they don’t do things exactly the same way as the change agent and this causes frustration. They don’t use the same words. They don’t follow exactly the same methods. They don’t care about the history of the change. They are making it their own. Because it is now different, even if just superficially, than what the change agent envisioned, the change agent might turn into a resistor themselves.
Change agents must give up control, at the right time, if they are to truly see their efforts become a success.
Have you had experiences where giving up control was the difficult but right thing to do?