August 25, 2015 Anil Saxena

Marching To The Same Beat

“No, no, no!” my daughter’s marching band leader screamed.  “We cannot get to the end of the field unless ALL of us are going in the same direction.  Each section has to be playing the same song.”

As my daughter and I walked to the car, she proclaimed,

“I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t just try to march to the same beat.  We would look so much better.”

True I thought… too true.

Predictable Failure
That night I thought about all the organizations I had the privilege of working with.  Many of them launched new strategies all the time trying to capitalize on trends or new technology.  But the reality is, well-thought-out, interesting, and rational strategies failat an alarming rate.  Even after John Kotter’s seminal book, Leading Change, organizational change fails at least 70% of the time.  The same goes for introducing a new strategy.

Why is this? What are we still doing wrong?

It couldn’t be that companies don’t know HOW to implement change.  How could that be?  There are 100’s if not 1000’s of books on the subject of change management, and just as many consultants.  So if it is not about knowing how, then it must be something else.

Could the Answer Be So Simple?

Could it be as easy as marching to the same beat?

Research tells us that successful organizations have great focus in at least two key areas: They develop their managers, and align their culture (teams, departments, operations) to their strategy.

Basically, organizational culture is the personality of the organization. The goal is to get everyone to march to the beat of the same drummer.  That can be accomplished through force, but is difficult, costly, and ultimately counter-productive.

The alternative is to uncover the current culture and provide managers the tools they need to drive incremental change.

It’s as Simple – and Difficult – as 1, 2, 3

1. It starts with listening to understand how engaged people are within the organization.  Before people can get behind any change, they need to be excited about what they are doing, and where they are going.

2. Then, uncover the current level of alignment between strategy and culture. Is the day-to-day environment of the organization consistent with the stated and ultimate goals of the organization?

3. Lastly, identify effective means to instigate or facilitate service alignment between critical departments.

For even greater effectiveness, an online Alignment System can give front line managers, leaders, and OD/HR regular support, guidance, and learning.  The system would help to get everyone on the same page, helping them start to march to the same beat.

The Result – Leading for Alignment

My daughter’s band finished the season winning all kinds of awards.  Why do you think they had such great success? It is because her director was focused on making sure each section of the band was “playing the same song” and “paying attention to [and supporting] the rest of the band.”

What unsuccessful experiences have you had in attempting change or a new strategy? Do you think a misalignment was behind this failure? What was the misalignment? What was the impact of this “failure?” What opportunities  do you see now to foster greater alignment in your organization or working group to create a greater chance of success? I’d love to hear you thoughts.

Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.

Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


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