This is part of a long series in a number of postings based on the Spring 2009 Issue of OnPoint (from the Harvard Business Press) dedicated to Risk Management.
Specifically, this particular post is the 2nd of several relating to my review of the article: A Survival Guide for Leaders by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky (both professors at the Kennedy School at Harvard and authors of Leadership on the Line).
An example of treating the symptom vs. adaptive change (mine example, not the authors): Employees at a company over time have been allowed to come to meetings late. As a result, almost every meeting starts 15 to 25 minutes after the actual time it’s supposed to. This had become part of the culture.
1. A new manager takes over and spots the problem and comes up with a new solution: Give everyone time management classes. Problem solved. People love the classes…which they show up late for! The new manager quickly gets co-opted and allows late-creep back into the organization. Everyone likes him and gives him smiley-face reviews when 360 time comes around.
2.Another new manager comes in. She sees the problem and announces that all meetings will start on time. No excuses. People arrive late and find themselves locked out. And after the second occurrence reprimanded. After the third time, suspended with no pay for two days. One wag tested this new leader a fourth time and was fired. Everyone shows up on time now. But the internal pressure on this young manager mounts. She’s shunned by management peers, who don’t hold their teams to the same exacting standard. She’s whispered about, maligned…even the senior execs see her as strident. She loses confidence and support and eventually lets up—thus losing a most useful attempt to change the culture of the organization for the better.
So, how do you handle it and keep from getting torpedoed? See the next few posts.