By William Seidman
I’ve recently read two very good books: The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen and and The Knowing-Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton.
Christensen and Pfeffer and Sutton each tell the truth about what happens when organizations try to change – and why it is so hard to change.
Christensen describes how institutions develop infrastructure that is focused, to the exclusion of all else, on today, emphasizing current issues over planning for the future. These hidden biases and barriers to thinking ahead tend to be the factors that most undermine change.
It makes sense that a company’s daily pressures to make short-term numbers demand quick action, and that this be done in ways that have worked before. But it doesn’t help with tomorrow’s challenges — not one bit.
Vitally important changes are all but impossible to accomplish when managers are preoccupied with filling orders regardless of what might lie ahead. I think of the bumper sticker I used to see, “DON’T HONK. I’M PEDALING AS FAST AS I CAN!”
Pfeffer and Sutton take this idea a step farther, showing how management teams know about these issues and even know what they should do — but don’t do it because, again, of pressure to satisfy immediate needs.
An exasperated colleague said to me the other day, “Sometimes you just want to shake people!”
We try to break down these barriers by using existing leadership and showing, convincingly, that there’s a lot more to sustained success than “pedaling as fast as you can.”