A client, senior manager, mentioned to me recently that his company spent a disproportionate amount of time ‘getting ready’. He was referring to a product launch. He was critical, yet he found difficult to push back because how could anybody argue against doing a proper homework, that is, markets, competitors, own skills etc? Many colleagues shared the ‘readiness discomfort’ but nobody dared to call it out.
This is far from uncommon. I used to use a slide in my presentations showing a pie chart which represented the percentage of time we tend to spend on a topic/strategy: 25% thinking of doing; 40% planning for doing; 20% getting absolutely ready for doing, including announcing of doing; 15% doing.
The need to do the homework has not gone away. What has gone away is a clear sense of sequence: A,B,C and then D will happen. In fact the sequential world is an illusion. Woody Allen’s once description of London as ‘all the seasons in one afternoon’ would be a fair representation of today’s business environment. It’s ready for A whilst doing C.
In a recent great conference under the theme ‘Organizing for Transformation’, at which I was kindly invited to deliver the keynote, I gently (and respectfully, I hope) challenged the title as somehow implying that you stop the place and organize, and then transform. Of course whoever created the title did not mean that. It was obvious. But I pointed it out as a way to uncover how our brain works and love orderly sequence. The old saying ‘flying whilst bolting the wings of the airplane’ (and its many variations) is spot on. It describers today. A,B,C is ready for A whilst doing C.
Let me attempt to reframe:
- Readiness is mostly a red herring. Nobody is ever truly ready. We have attached the label to a point in time in which we decided to act and act. Readiness to walk is mostly a state of people already walking.
- Preparedness is often used as a coterminous, a synonymous of readiness. However, this term (wildly used in the military) is for me much broader and deals with all those ‘homework’ and conditions needed for ‘the plane to fly, and bolt the wings, and man the control tower, and buy parachutes’.
- Change-ability is for me a way to shape the operating system of an organization that allows for semi-permanent state of preparedness and readiness and whatever else we can throw in.
Which means that I would put my money on change-ability, on creating organizational DNA and people/process operating systems that allows me to navigate, sail, fly and achieve without a ‘constant disruption’.
If a programme, initiative, method does not build lasting capacity, it’s today not worth the money. Change management is dead. Change-ability is a premium.
Are there any possible conditions for this?
Let me come back tomorrow.