Here’s Who’s Standing in the Way of Strategic Change

Your strategy is set. Now comes the hard part: making it happen. Implementing strategic change. Unfortunately, there’s someone standing in the way of change, someone you’re going to have to deal with.

Look in the mirror. It’s you.

Based on a four-year research project, a recent article in Strategy + Business concluded that while supposedly recalcitrant middle managers are often blamed for failed change efforts, the true culprits reside further up the food chain … in executive management (

What is it that top leaders do that undermines change? Three things. First, they’re not clear enough about the goal, the expected outcome. I would take it a step further. It’s essential that leaders connect the dots between the goal, how achieving that goal serves the purpose of the organization, and what is expected of each individual in support of the goal. It’s the clear linkage between purpose, goals and expectations that’s crucial.

Second, top leaders aren’t realistic — they underestimate the time and resources required to achieve the goal. Sure, everyone wants results yesterday. But it takes rigorous and realistic project planning to build a roadmap for what can be achieved by when and what it will take to do it.

Third, top leaders aren’t consistent in the messages they send. To achieve a goal, everything a leader says and does must be aligned with that goal. Failing to do that — sending mixed messages — demotivates people, destroys a leader’s credibility, and undermines change.

For example, when a leader promotes one thing but rewards another, people get confused. Or, when expectations are provided but not the authority to act on them, people get frustrated. Mixed messages undermine strategic change.

The bad news is that it’s you who’s standing in the way of strategic change. What you haven’t done but need to do.

The good news? It’s you who’s standing in the way of strategic change. You get to decide. So, what do you intend to do?

Make it happen.


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