Lean Focus Article Becoming Jekyll, Transforming Hyde

Despite the recent popularity of TED Talks, Harvard Business School (HBS) articles, and key influencers promoting the transformational topics of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), employee engagement, diversity & inclusion (D&I), psychological safety, et al, the “say-do” ratio inside most companies remains woefully unchanged. For example, with an increasing nationwide focus on D&I initiatives, in Fortune 500 companies (rightfully so) only 18 of them even provide the fullest breakdown of their U.S. workforce (across Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other minorities, the proportions of these groups in workforce, management, and board, plus racial pay gap data). Hats off to the companies that do: (Air Products, Allstate, Amazon, American Express, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Estee Lauder, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Nike, Target, Owens Corning, United Health, Verizon, Visa, and Wells Fargo).

Initiatives undertaken to transform companies rarely make it beyond the initial splash of a press release, and despite the steady cadence of corporate whitewashing (coordinated attempts to hide unpleasant facts), employees still perceive their companies’ commitment as half-hearted at best, and disingenuous at worse, which undermines the entire transformation effort. It is not that these initiatives aren’t benevolent, well-intended attempts to change for the better, but rather they fail because they are empty platitudes that do not systematically address the underlying processes and people needed to affect future performance.

It is not surprising to see why employees may draw these conclusions either. Despite company leadership publicly proclaiming, “these priorities are first on our list”, internally they are seen putting them last. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Dr. Jekyll is a kind, well-respected and intelligent scientist who meddles with the darker side of science, as he wants to bring out his “second” nature. He does this through transforming himself into Mr.Hyde -his evil alter ego who doesn’t repent or accept responsibility for his evil crimes and ways. In effect, the Jekyll Company’s WORDS are incongruent with their alter-ego, Hyde Company’s ACTIONS, and that makes it difficult to buy into the fact that anything has changed for the better, if at all.

Lean Focus Becoming Jekyll, Transforming Hyde article

The Say-Do Ratio with large-scale transformation initiatives must be one-to-one. Why is this important? Because this ratio becomes the fuel that drives your transformation OR torches it. Once you do what you say you’ll do consistently, stakeholders will see you as reliable and are better able to count on you. There are three considerations that must be accounted for in order for the organization to drive any transformational change:

  1. Removal of Zero-Sum Bias:

For zero-sum thinkers, the world is black and white: either I win and you lose, or you win and I lose. Mutually beneficial outcomes are never considered. Change causes anxiety, therefore, you must involve all relevant stakeholders and communicate to reduce anxiety and increase the level of buy-in. Associates need to perceive their input as valued and be prepared for them to defend the norm if they do not understand the “why” and the “WIFM?” (what’s in it for me?). You must remember to:

  • Set a Clear Vision for the Change
  • Convey the Reason for the Change
  • Communicate Early and Often
  • Leverage Informal Leaders (ICONS in your organization)
  • Be Flexible and prepared to adapt
  1. Structure Must Follow Strategy:

As the old saying goes, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” Structure follows strategy is a business principle that states that the divisions, departments, teams, processes and technology of an organization are designed to achieve a firm’s strategy. W. Edwards Deming said it best, “Each system is perfectly designed to give you exactly what you are getting today.” In order for meaningful change to occur, there must be a realignment of people across the organization with the direction and strategy envisioned by the leadership, while making the necessary changes in systems, processes, and technology to make it happen. You must setup systems and processes that promote long-term sustainability. Resource allocation must change, priorities must change, budgets must change, roles must change, people must change, metrics must change….and so on.

  1. What Gets Measured, Gets Managed AND What Can’t be Measured Should Still be Managed:

Peter Drucker was right when he wrote: “What gets measured gets managed,” however, this has been taken too literally to mean that if it cannot be measured, then it does not matter. There are many things that cannot be measured and still must be managed. And there are many things that cannot be measured and leaders must still make decisions about. This being said, it is vitally important to define what winning looks like for the transformation (in quantifiable terms) for all constituents: employees, shareholders, customers, society, etc. People need to see the value of the change and how they will win. As a leader, you must set high expectations for performance:

  • Align the organization behind the critical KPIs (5-8) that drive the transformation and align with your company values
  • Understand what is/is not achievable based on historical data, forward-looking data, and current resources
  • Hold all associates responsible/accountable to driving those results & stretching performance
  • Apply structured problem solving when necessary and provide coaching and feedback along the way

Often organizations believe that the success of any transformation depends on the strength of execution focus. Culture IS the driving force that delivers sustainable performance. Knowingly or unknowingly, leadership defines this culture and confusion, and conflict will reign supreme when leadership is unaware and inconsistent in upholding expectations.

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