‘Continuous improvement’ is part of the management furniture and something that, at face value, one could not disagree with.
But when the (operating system of the) organization becomes dysfunctional in many aspects, has unnecessary complexity, or slowness or, say, is inwards looking, the identification and fixing of some pieces may not be the solution.
People tend to fix, or attempt to fix, the obvious, and often the easy things. Which may be OK, but may also give an impression of strategic fixing, whilst it is in fact changing the oil of the failing car.
The comfort of the this (‘we are doing something about it’) may be so strong as to trigger a softening of the urgency, to seriously look at the whole thing in depth. We love ‘activities’ and ‘initiatives’ (and a project management system behind) and we get carried away with them.
At some point in the dysfunctionality, what you need is to create a ‘new agenda’ so strong that it swallows any previous deficiencies. You need to put yourself ahead of the game before people try to change the oil of the car (and look at the procurement of oil, the type of oil, and the available case studies of the use of that oil elsewhere) and question if you need a new car, or a car at all.
Most corporate dysfunctionalities are self-inflicted. Many of them are not even fully perceived by people inside. And if they do, to try to tackle it may be like asking the arsonists to be the fire brigade as well. Doable, but probably not the best idea.
By all means, tackle known deficiencies but also take a hard look at the fabric behind. Fixing a hole in a dysfunctional super tank may be dangerous, complacent and a starting point towards the sinking.
Continue the conversation…
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Dr Leandro Herrero is the CEO and Chief Organization Architect of The Chalfont Project , an international firm of organizational architects. He is the pioneer of Viral ChangeTM, a people Mobilizing Platform, a methodology that delivers large scale behavioural and cultural change in organizations, which creates lasting capacity for changeability.
Dr Herrero is also an Executive Fellow at the Centre for the Future of Organization, Drucker School of Management. An international speaker, Dr Herrero is available for virtual speaking engagements  and can be reached at: The Chalfont Project .