Change starts at home

Managing any kind of organization is a tough job. Even as a one-person consulting company, I face new challenges all the time. So it should come as no surprise that larger organizations often encounter significant barriers to growth.

Overcoming these difficulties requires a certain degree of cultural change. The willingness of leaders to alter their perspectives and behaviors is paramount.

Furthermore, a reluctance or inability to embrace the need for change will usually lead to stagnation. All the Program Management Institute knowledge in the world won't make up for a refusal to adapt.

The decision to propel an organization forward is usually met with the typical programmatic challenges and some resistance. Success requires management attitude and behavior changes.

Well, that's obvious, you might say.

My response would be to point out how often in my consulting work I encounter the ostrich syndrome. Have you ever left a meeting only to shake your head in disgust at some senior manager with his head in the sand who is unwilling to make a change that everyone else in the room knows is necessary? Now, be honest. Have you ever been that manager?

Any individual in an organization can make a difference. But, in general, the companies or agencies I've seen really take off — the ones I wouldn't mind my daughters working for — have had a leader who was willing to look in the mirror and lead by example. The leader would be willing to work on that one weakness that was preventing staff members from realizing their full potentials.

So, if your tendency is to micromanage, instead delegate some of the power and responsibility. If you're indecisive, make decisions in a timely manner. If you talk too much, listen more. If you blame others for what's wrong, be the change agent you want to see instead.

Old habits are difficult to break. I worked with one company executive who insisted on doing the detailed office assignments for the entire staff during a major facility move.

While he doodled on blueprints, business revenue tumbled. And his senior management team became so frustrated that some of them jumped ship.

You can't do the same things as a general that you did as a private. Yet one of the most difficult transitions at all levels of management is to let go of the details. It takes courage to entrust daily operations to others. This is especially tough for a manager who has risen through the ranks of the technology staff.

But, unless you make this shift, your organization will almost definitely hit a wall. Or, as Benjamin Franklin said, "When you're finished changing, you're finished."

Lisagor is program co-chairman for E-Gov's 2004 Program Management Summit. He founded Celerity Works LLC in 1999 to help IT organizations accelerate and manage their business growth. He can be reached at [email protected]

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