Breaking a Dollar without Change

November 1, 2013

ChangeIf you want to break a dollar without giving change, you will have to rip it in pieces. If you do that, you will need to find someone willing to accept your new form of currency. And if they accept it, they will have to persuade someone else to accept the ripped pieces of the dollar, too.

Leaders and organizations contemplating major changes ought to think twice before ripping up their currency (or the equivalent). These types of changes are usually way too complex to be told and sold throughout the organization. Success hinges on a collaborative process that engages many levels and layers of the organization. The early engagement, building of trust, developed shared mental models, and cognitive diversity will lead to a more cogent and successful change effort.

Senior leaders are often frightened by or dismissive of this type of collaborative process. They believe that they are the only ones with complete enough information to make the right decision. They may believe making these bold and big changes is part of their job, and not doing so would mean failing. Or maybe they can imagine 1 to 15 executives in a room following a 7-step, decision-making model. What they have difficulty imagining is accumulating data from all stakeholders and setting it free, and sorting and prioritizing it into models that will inform the future direction of the organization. The cost, time, and effort involved with such an initiative overwhelms them.

True leaders, however, are comfortable with sharing power and decision making. They lean toward asking questions and building consensus, rather than making huge changes and trying to tell and sell stakeholders later. When they “make change,” true leaders don’t just hand out pieces of a ripped dollar bill.

Penny for your thoughts?

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