It was Machiavelli who wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things”.
Yet, for the most part, this is exactly the terrain that most leaders constantly find themselves negotiating. ‘Initiating a new order of things’ is what is needed in most organisations wanting to be future fit. The old ways of understanding the organisation and the systems and processes that have been fined tuned over decades to build the desired efficiencies, are simply not adequate to cope with the demands of the future. Smart leaders understand this and are willing to ‘initiate a new order of things’
Doing this work is strategic, cultural and political. Ignore any one of these dimensions and whatever one’s endeavours, failure is the likely outcome. ‘Change’ is the watchword of the 21st century and leaders encounter change at every turn. Change has to be seen as something more than a strategic response or readiness. If as a leader, you are dependent on initiating strategic change in order to keep ahead of the curve, the reality is, you will never be fast enough. The pace of change has evolved past the ability of strategy to keep pace.
There needs to be a cultural understanding of the need for organisational change. In other words ‘change’ needs to be part of your organisational DNA. Once change becomes part of your DNA a lot of the political blowback that accompanies change gets eliminated.
Change is always three-dimensional – strategic, cultural and political. Understanding this can make it easier to understand why a change initiative of yours might be failing. The most common response to change is strategic. A lot has been said and written on strategic change and whilst this is important, a cultural unreadiness to change, can dismantle the best of change strategies. Because the change agenda is so unrelenting it makes building a culture that thrives in change a necessity. Of course there is no formulae for this and figuring out what this looks like within one’s organisation is the leaders responsibility.
A simple understanding of change involving strategy, culture and politics is a good starting distinction.