When it comes to change in organisations, Kotter warns us of 6 attitudes that will lead to complacency and probable failure. It would be great if these harmful attitudes were uncommon, but unfortunately that is not the case. Size yourself up against them and see how you fare.
We’re doing fine
It’s a disturbing reality that many managers are not good at seeing problems. Have you ever worked with managers who are blind to the fact that their mannerisms, behaviours, or attitudes create problems? Some are blind to the fact that particular organisational policies, processes, or procedures don’t work anymore and make the organisation less efficient. It’s like they can’t see the wood for the trees – what may be an obvious problem to many people looks okay to them. This blindness is a killer attitude.
We are successful
It’s dangerous to live in a fool’s paradise. Organisations can look successful on the outside, with impressive buildings and shiny boardrooms. The most visible elements of the organisation’s culture present a strong message: we are successful. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s true, but it’s a big problem if the manager is dazzled by all the bright lights and can’t see the dirt under the table. Managers can easily be dulled into a sense of complacency if the organisation looks successful, or if the status quo works for them. Just because they have an office with a great view doesn’t mean all is okay with the business.
Low standards and short-sighted
Things can look fantastic if you’re prepared to accept almost anything. Poor performance and low standards can seem alright if managers don’t really care about outcomes, if they don’t want to rock the boat, or if they can’t see the long-term effects of such behaviour. They may want to be everybody’s best friend, but in the end they’re not doing anyone any favours.
Things can look alright if you look at the wrong things. Managers are sometimes so focused on narrow functional goals that they fail to see the overall performance of the organisation. This is a case of having too narrow a view; of having all the deckchairs immaculately clean and ordered, but failing to see the ship is sinking. Now that’s a killer attitude.
Poor control systems
Managers can be lulled into thinking everything is alright because the control systems that indicate performance either don’t work, are inadequate, or inaccurate. It’s a problem of not measuring anything, or not measuring the right things. Some managers have pet concerns; things they measure and worry about all the time. But these concerns are not always that important in the grand scale of things, and what is truly important gets ignored. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Faulty reporting systems
Managers can be lulled into thinking everything is fine because they don’t get the information that shows what is really happening. There are dangerous roadblocks on the information highways. Managers can become so absorbed in their immediate processes they don’t realise key information never reaches them. They are blind to what they don’t see. With these killer mistakes managers are sure to do damage. When it comes to change managers can’t focus only on their little world. They need to adopt systems-thinking. If you’re a manager, audit your management practices and examine whether you have everything you need to manage and lead effectively.
Dr Steve Barlow