For nearly four years now I have been working with senior executives from across the world travelling in and out of the Philippines. I have worked with groups from Boeing, UPS, Coke, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, USAID, Proctor & Gamble, Fonterra and Pepsico to name a few. In all our conversations the one statement that keeps popping up is a Peter Drucker quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Though often, I must confess, we warp this quote a bit by saying, “Culture trumps strategy all the time.”
What does this mean? And, if the meaning is looking us in the face then what can we do to move, to change, to lead and win at the marketplace and win in changing economies? Our strategies for innovation, marketing or for impacting the business bottom-line will just not work. Our plans look good on paper and stay looking good on paper. Our business agility and tactics leave us with constantly aching lower backs.
Well, here’s the inside story. All the tangible moves we make; the promotions we launch, the people we pirate and the systems we reshape are moves only on the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Doing all these things in a dynamic marketplace and a constantly changing economy is like trying to turn a ship around in a raging storm by grappling with the tips of its mast. That, as we have all known and experienced in Reagan-speak, “Just doesn’t cut it. No way, José!”
The way to handle and drive change is to go get to the bottom of things. The way to drive change and rewrite a new culture is to dive under the ship and get a handle on its hull, work the rudders and open up the sails in the direction of the organizational desire-dream.
One of the world’s top 100 change agents, Dr. Roland Sullivan calls this holistic process “Whole Systems Transformation.” I think of his process as change from deep within, from the core and hull of a large, dynamic system called an organization. Dr. Sullivan recommends a four-step process;
- Transform leadership
Work with the decision makers, the core and the powers that be. Let them, first, sink their mental and emotional fangs into meat of the dream. Let them lock their jaws on crystallizing and clarifying the direction in which their organizational ship needs to go.
- Transform system critical mass
Choose a substantial number of dedicated individuals whose values not just resonate but ring church bells in sync with the values and the purpose of the organization. Let them also bite into the same dream as the leaders.
- Transfer competency to local change agent
Power and tool up local and internal change agents to work on the daily grind of weaving and hammering in the necessary knots and nails to turn the hull around. Let them learn to stew, to steam and serve the bits with a sizzle.
- Sustain transformation
Hold your breath, let the sails bellow, paddle consistently and evenly until we, the whole system, surfs over the storm and strengthens up for the next wave of change.
Dr. Roland Sullivan, in 2009, in conversation with the newly elected Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi put together this quote with him, “Dreams are not seen when you sleep. Dreams are those that do not let you sleep.” http://rolandsullivan.wordpress.com/2009/07/
Over the last few years, Indians across the nation heard these words and made them their battle-cry for change. Today, the hull and the rudder of the ship called India is now in new hands and they look forward to riding out into seas, using Whole Systems Transformation, to drive change, to change culture.
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