Merge's Blog

How do you bring about successful organizational change today?

As many of you know, for over fourteen years I worked for the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in Canada.  And during my time there, I had the privilege to cross paths with some very great leaders, many of whom were my role models in my continued quest to become a better leader.  When I left Shell to create my own leadership development consultancy in 2002, I lost touch with several of those people who were pivotal in my development.  But … I work with a wide variety of clients, and every so often I “find” one of those important people who have moved on to other organizations as well.  That’s exactly what happened when I delivered the opening keynote at a Corporate Summit earlier this year!  I was able to reconnect with Rob, who I haven’t seen in over 11 years, and who is now the Senior Vice President at another major oil and gas company!  Given his vast experience and successful track record in leadership, I asked him if he would guest on the Turning Managers into Leaders blog today.  Not only did he graciously agree, but he is going to write a follow-up blog next week (July 8) as well.

FaceQuestionMarkAs a baby boomer whose been working in the corporate world for more than 30 years, I’ve seen my share of organizational change.  My thesis to you is that what makes for successful change today is different – it reflects the changes in our values, our society and the generations that are in it.

“Way back” change was successfully driven from the top, often shrouded in secrecy. The boss decided (perhaps with a small inner circle of confidants) on a new organization, communicated it and it was implemented in a very short time. A number of large management consulting organizations made their living “helping” leaders rapidly evaluate and then implement change. The consultants then left….. I recall a classic description on the departure of one internationally known company, who is still plying their trade today – “the seagulls have left — they flew in, circled over us, shit on our heads and have now left”. Traditionals and baby boomers accepted this model. People were also generally looked after – mass layoffs were rare. So this no doubt helped.

Today the generations in our workforces from traditionalists through boomers and on to millennials demand different things. They don’t blindly trust, they expect to be informed and heard, and guess what?  There are some great ideas out there! This means that effective organizational change today requires a different approach. This approach is much more collaborative and so it takes much longer. It runs the risk of getting away from the leader – you are not totally in control any longer! The risk is, in my view, worth the reward – a better end product that is more quickly accepted and will be more quickly and efficiently implemented.

What do you think? How do you create and successfully implement organizational change today as compared to the past?

Because Rob is in a very senior position with his current organization, there are some sensitivities involved, and he has asked that I keep his contribution to the blog relatively anonymous.  So … if you’d like to communicate with Rob, please do so using the Comments link at the bottom of this post.  I know he’d love to keep the dialogue going, so please share your thoughts.

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