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I have seen the same slide yet again. It keeps following me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. OK, not on Facebook, I have deleted my account. It says:  Old organization, new organization. Old power to new power. Power goes from hierarchical to distributed. Communication from silos to networks. Top down to bottom up. Top down to distributed. Command and control to empowerment. And another few more.

Have you seen that slide? If not, your Sabbatical sounds wonderful.

The beauty of this all-purpose-slide is that it will accept lots of labels: agile, future of work, change, transformation, and of course, digitalization. It is like a renewable energy product, a perfect idea recycling, multi-use, multi-purpose, prêt-à-porter  management.

This obligatory stop on ‘the new world that is coming to us ’ serves well as a tool for conversations . And this is good. The slight problem is that 90% of the talkers are proficient at talking but not many have a clue as to how on earth all that is going to be implemented. Small detail.

The talkers are fantastic at talking to each other as a global tribe. It’s mutually self-reinforcing. There will be workshops. There will be post-its (management development is the result of a conspiracy by 3M), there will be people on the floor arranging cards (why on the floor? It looks more tribal but it’s terrible for your back), wallpaper with arrows (change) and hexagons (design thinking). And all will be good. Biblical. They will look at everything they have made, and they will be very pleased.

There are however two problems

  1. Nobody with real power to change in the organization listens or cares about the arrows, hexagons and the old power/new power stuff.
  2. The Grand Designers design but have not a good idea of how this is going to be implemented in, say, a traditional medium to large organization. Will just go one day to leaders and say, ‘you people, stop being top-down, don’t you see this is démodé, embrace bottom-up!’ Change! You need to change! And be a good role model. People are looking at you! (No, they aren’t)

The ‘what’ (top down not good, bottom up good…) is well known by now. So well known that can be easily trivialised. The how is the trick. How to go from ‘that slide’ to changing 15000 people in the organization. How to actually change behaviours. You won’t find that in many powerpoint stacks from Big Consulting

When The Talkers venture into the how, they act as shoppers, not cooks. So they say, OK, we need more trust, a lot of accountability, and empowerment, and a lot, a lot, a lot of customer-centrism ( as if the customer cared about your post-its and Grand Designs) and, of course, leaders with vision who walk the talk. And let’s not forget Servant Leadership (why? I don’t know). Oh, I forgot resilience. Mary, could you text him to bring some resilience, before he leaves the supermarket?

I know about the shopping list but, excuse me, who is actually cooking?


What do we do now? Well, when looking for recipes, that Talkers-Shoppers find them:  OK, a top down cascade of workshops to explain the  beauty of bottom up; an over inclusive training system to train how not to be over-inclusive;  the top 200 leaders attending Transformation Workshops (AKA pass the post-its)

And then what?

Still no cooks, no cooking, the kitchen is full of stuff. Leaders are bemused. No strategy of where to start, how to start, how to change, let alone how to scale.

We can do better. We must do better.

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