Organizational Development Falters When Leaders Fail to Give “Permission” to Change

The takeaway from most meetings may be that one hot topic that got everyone talking, but in the end failed to move the needle toward much needed change.

Indeed, the progression of organization development can come to a standstill if everyone waits for someone else to say what needs to be said to break open the logjam of ideas that often go unheard.

Admittedly, it’s no surprise that we look to and wait for the organization’s leaders to make that first move before the pathway is cleared to move toward those goals.

What’s more, according to Randy Pennington, author of “Make Change Work,” it isn’t so much that everyone agrees that something has to change. More so, it’s about a leader giving us “permission”—and the “urgency”—to go for it: Let the conversations begin…after the leader goes first.

Ford Motor Company’s CEO, Allan Mulally, startled his minions during a meeting on the development of the Ford Tarus: On the wall was a color-coded flow chart indicating the progress of the car. Mulally used a red pen to circle one segment of the project “indicating trouble.” That simple act was new to the Ford culture, giving everyone the permission they needed to weigh in.

At its worst, a company culture can get bogged down in what Pennington calls “3D Vision:”

Denial, Distortion, and Delusion. And when that occurs, the change required to stay competitive in a changing environment suffers…“People hear our rhetoric, but they watch our actions,” says Pennington. “It sounds simple, but leaders shoot their transformation efforts in the foot when they were unwilling to go first and model the change.”

Do not go quietly into those meetings, especially if you plan to lead by example. Others will likely follow your lead — once they’re given permission to do so.

Contact us to discover a trove of resources keyed to company culture and it’s affect on an organization.

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