Thomas Lindqvist recently posed a question you might find interesting:
Or, in more common parlance, what motivates an organisation to put time and effort into improving its overall effectiveness? You might think this kind of improvement a common objective – but in my experience it’s very uncommon.
In response, I suggested that the motivation – when present – comes from the Core Group attempting to get their needs met. Manifest in what I refer to as “organising intent”. Absent the Core Group seeing improvement as a viable and effective strategy for getting met their particular needs of the moment, it’s unlikely that improvement – whether in-band or out-of-band, whether Kaizen or Kaikaku – will receive much attention or support.
Note that in this post I’m talking primarily about the motivation to tackle one of the three great transitions in the Marshall Model.
I can go with Kotter’s explanation of motivation for incremental, out-of-bound improvement: Urgency.
“Visible crises can be enormously helpful in catching people’s attention and pushing up urgency levels. Conducting business as usual is very difficult if the building seems to be on fire.”
~ John Kotter
Yet, this begs various questions:
- To whom does a sense of urgency matter?
- Why do they feel this sense of urgency? (Upon what information is their feeling based?)
- What are their needs, needs that might be better met if a sense of urgency prevails?
- How will the sense of urgency get expressed?
- What will that expression lead to?
I don’t believe organisations contemplate transitions (wholesale replacement of their collective mindset) when they find a crisis upon them. Urgency seems irrelevant. Transitions will seem like they just take too long to be an effective survival response to an impending catastrophe.
Rather than urgency, the question of whether to tackle a transition is more likely to arise when e.g. the Core Group come to believe that existing avenues – like kaizen, continuous improvement or just plain old business-as-usual – have run out of steam. That these avenues no longer afford the promise of further improvements. Or that the ROI on such avenues has become marginal.
Of course, for a transition to even become a option requires that e.g. the Core Group feels some dissatisfaction with current levels of performance, of effectiveness. That the organisation’s performance fails to meet their needs in some significant way. Absent this condition, it’s likely things will just bump along as always.
So, how do you gauge the organising intent of your organisation’s Core Group? Is it bent on improvement? Or does its focus lie elsewhere?