On paper organizations can be easily segmented and compartmentalized into seemingly static groups of people, processes, systems, products and services. We’ve all seen the charts and diagrams that make it all seem so clear and simple, especially when it comes to revenue projections.
The truth, however, is that organizations are constantly changing and adapting, not only in response to a market that’s in a state of perpetual flux, but to their own internal human dynamics which are just as impactful. And each change, no matter how small, has the potential to ultimately influence in only one of two ways: success or failure.
Of course, some of the changes will be small and “overwritten” by the next round of adaptive changes. But some of the changes will create what I call “sticking points.” Much like a twig that sticks out along the bank of a river, these sticking points in organizations accumulate additional changes without the organization even knowing it. And with each growth cycle, there becomes even more potential for accumulation and growth. The cycle is hard to stop.
Worst-case scenario? One day people show up at the river to find that it’s simply no longer flowing. Everyone wonders what could have happened. They're amazed at how it all happened so quickly. The corporate corollary is that people wake up one day to suddenly find their company is all of a sudden not doing well or worse is all of sudden being forced into bankruptcy.
The perception is often that these things just happen. My take is that major failures are not the result of massive miscalculations around grand strategy, there is usually too much thinking around these strategies, but the result of small, seemingly benign changes, often unseen, that lead to sticking points that accumulate, and of distribute, even more negative changes.
Ideally, organizations would create mechanisms within their own walls that constantly and objectively scan and reassess what the organization is doing, why it is doing it and where it is hoping those actions take them. The challenge with these strategic teams is that it’s often very difficult for people to be completely objective, especially when dealing with policies that might affect them or their teams.
In the absence of these internal mechanisms, comprehensive rebranding projects that encompass strategy, design and technology can be a useful way to bring in more objective thinking that provides a foundation on which to build a positive dialogue about what the future should look like.
Yes, that's a bit of a plug, but in our experience companies that are the most open to questioning assumptions are usually the least likely to get caught off guard by something they didn't know existed.