Do it with Them, Not to ThemRecently I was talking with two executives about our approach for an upcoming leadership team retreat. We discussed their retreat objectives, possible agenda items, pre-assessment options, and who would participate.

They’d recently brought together four departments into one service organization. They talked about rebuilding their organization structure and how to “fit the puzzle pieces together.” Their question was should they do that first and then have the retreat. I asked if their core leader team had been set. It had. This included the next level of directors reporting to the key VPs.

Uh, oh. Rearranging the organization chart boxes before the retreat would plunge them straight into the classic reorganization trap where these two executives end up “doing it to” their management group rather than “doing it with” their key leaders.

A McKinsey survey of 1,800 executives identified these most common reorganization pitfalls:

  1. Employees actively resist the changes.
  2. Insufficient resources — people, time, money — are devoted to the effort.
  3. Employees are distracted from their day-to-day activities, and individual productivity declines.
  4. Leaders actively resist the changes.
  5. The org chart changes, but the way people work stays the same.

Form follows function. And we need the involvement of the key leaders who’ll make or break the reorganization. We agreed to get everyone together to scope out their direction, define the culture they’re trying to build, revise their foundational values, establish common goals, and identify and address the “biggest moose” (obstacles) in the way. They could then agree on their strategic imperatives — one of which would likely be their reorganization — and set their implementation plans.

Tomorrow we publish my October blogs in The Leader Letter.  We’ll see how leadership and culture development are critical to any major organization change effort. A key reason so many leadership development efforts fail is because the culture crashes them. Behavior rarely changes if the system doesn’t change. And the culture won’t change unless leadership behavior changes.

Performance management systems should be an integral part of development. A major reason for their dismal performance is they’re badly used and painful. Increasingly performance management systems are shifting from accountability to development. It’s about time.

And the best development is proving to be building strengths rather than finding and fixing performance gaps. That calls for a new approach to using 360s and leveraging strengths.