Changing Your Organization

3 Feb
I notice a lot of energy around the notion of changing our organizations these days. To make them more innovative, to make them more collaborative, to make them more open, etc. But I think sometimes the emphasis is misplaced. Because the most important factor in achieving this is not the organization, its processes, its vision, etc. The most important factor is people.An organization is not open to change — people are. To have change occur, I have to be looking for opportunities to do things differently. My boss has to be open to change, and his boss has to be open to change. Rules and processes can’t make this happen. They can hinder it, or they can support it, but fundamentally it arises from the personalities of the people I work with.

And while it is possible for people to change, it’s not an easy undertaking. So the most effective strategy for change in an organization is to hire people who have the personalities you are looking for, and promote the people who reflect those values. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, this isn’t a science.

For example, I’ve come to realize that cultural fit is a make or break issue with new hires. I’ve seen numerous situations in which people had all the technical skills required for a job, but in which cultural issues made it impossible for them to contribute effectively. I think that I have gotten better at navigating these waters, but I can’t put that knowledge in a box and pass it on to others. Maybe that’s just a limitation that I have, but I don’t think so.

So what do we do? The most important take-away for me is to keep the focus on people. Organizational structures and processes can’t make this happen. In hiring, don’t just focus on technical skills — use your intuition to see whether someone has the personality traits that you need. And since culture is vital, involve as many people as you can in helping you assess whether someone will fit in.

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