Why often no one wants to set their organization in motion ?
And for good reason…
Here I am among you. I am Pablo Pernot, on the one hand an organisation coach and on the other hand CEO of beNext. What would I like to talk to you about? Why are you asking me to talk to you? Probably to talk about organizations. I see enough of them. So to evoke reflections based on my past experiences seems appropriate to me. And perhaps to evoke the one that is mine, and with which I have lived for several years, beNext.
Today, to bring all this together, I’m going to talk to you about a fictional organization, which many people know or have known, or will know. This organization is quite large, not very young, this organization has proven its worth. It is a market player. Maybe not the best, but an actor who counts, but maybe the best. It lives this organization, it is profitable. She probably lives well even. But will it last? Everyone feels that the world is full of turmoil, that today’s actors are no longer yesterday’s actors. We are talking about the life expectancy of companies, which has risen from 60 years for organizations created in the middle of the 20th century to about 15 years for those created in the 21st century. It changes everything. With 60 years of life expectancy, you spent your entire career in the same company, with fifteen years it’s no longer the same story. Who says your organization will still be alive in five years? Five years no worries generally answer me this fictitious organization. But ten years? No one is so positive anymore. Do you all imagine in ten years’ time that you will no longer be part of your organization, that it no longer exists? For some it’s easy, for others it’s harder. And then this fictional organization is a market player, it works, even well. It’s too unfair, but the environment has changed too much to be certain. And what worked no longer works.
There is an emotion.
So that’s it, it’s the fight. We’re going to change. We’re going to change. We’ll adapt. Worse still, it could be “agile”, “lean”, “digital”. And we come to people like me to be accompanied through this “transformation”. Because we want certainties, to preserve with certainty our achievements, our habits, to have guarantees that it will work. Wherever it is not our fault if it does not work, we must not forget this variant. Many people who receive the “must transform” injunction catch it as it should be: it is meaningless. So, putting yourself at risk for something meaningless, very little for them, and I understand them. And then everything has been working for so long, and everything is working as agreed. I develop my career plan, I do my time (that’s right: do your time) in the company, and I will be rewarded over time. I can swallow snakes, forget my convictions, I have the security of a course. Nothing can really happen to us, we can build a nice little life on the time we have left around us. We can feel that the organization is no longer responding really well to the world around it, that it is shaken, too heavy, too slow, too stuck in its habits, but it seems so far away. It will last fifteen years, by then I will be safe (for the great leader at the top of the pyramid it is not that far away: I only have to last three years, five years, after the next one the next one will manage). How can we imagine that people who have joined this fictitious organization as soon as they leave school and see their time end there, imagine themselves radically transforming themselves, or that the company disappears, it is inaudible. Or those who, after having braved the horrors of the Far West of “consulting”, were able to make the nest here by exchanging freedom and acuity for security and perhaps a better lever to change things, or build something. Today most of them have forgotten, they have been cannibalized, sclerosed by security. Since the contract is to do your time, you make your little life next door with the time you have left.
There are great leaders who have their networks and move from one organization to another. And the little chefs who have made this bet of the organization over the long term. And now the big chiefs (who are there for five years maximum sometimes) are engaging the little ones who have bet on the stability of the structure to transform themselves, to question everything. It’s full of coffee. For small chefs often it is enough to wait five years and the next big chef. What about those who are not leaders? Huh? Does anyone care about that?
But what if all this were true? That today, yes, no organization has a guarantee of survival as it used to. That the rules of the game have changed. What if it were true that large organizations would be like sand castles if they did not adapt to these new rules?
It is inaudible to the people of this fictional organization, as we have said. Most of them are disengaged, in search of the security of a route initially promised. They do not understand why what has always worked no longer works. And in this large fictional organization, most of them are not in contact with the customer, with what the organization exists for.
This is all the more inaudible if I am asked the question: will the transformation work? The answer is necessarily: I don’t know. What form will the transformation take? I don’t know. I don’t know. Will the entire organization be impacted in the same way? I don’t know. I don’t know. What will become of me? I don’t know. I don’t know. How long will it take? I don’t know. I don’t know. Will everyone keep their jobs? I don’t know. I don’t know. Can the career we have started remain the same? I don’t know. I don’t know. Anyone who would answer otherwise would be willing to hide reality from you for a good or bad reason. Whoever buys answers, wants to buy security: “it’s not my fault” is what he may be buying.
With all these “I don’t know” things, it’s going to be all the more difficult to make yourself heard. But what do we know, what could we know then? What to hold on to if you don’t know if it will work? What form will it take if it works? What form will it take if it doesn’t work? When? When? What to hold on to?
If the time of the organization in this form was shorter than expected, that all this was true, what to cling to? What do we know? What do we know? What makes sense?
To your identity: who you are, what you want, what the organization responds to, why it exists. And you don’t want to transform yourself, be agile, be digital, change. All this makes no sense, it’s all about means. You want to transform yourself into what? Be agile to be more successful in what? Being digital to meet what challenges? And that you can know, measure: do you win these new markets or do you lose them? What do your users think about your services? Which services work and which do not and what do you want about them? Are you responsive to offers triggered by competitors? Do you act according to your identity, your convictions?
Are we going to win these new markets then? I still don’t know. But we can regularly measure the impact of our decisions. What new services will satisfy our users? I still don’t know, but we can regularly measure the impact of our decisions. Do you act according to your identity and convictions? I don’t know, but it’s something we can observe, measure.
I don’t know what or how, but I can know who I am or who I want to be and why. And the what and how will follow.
We are not changing, we are moving in that direction. There we can measure things that make sense, and even if we don’t know how to measure them there, we will be able to measure them.
So we should try, if you think like me, that things will not stay that way. That five years yes, the fictional organization will hold, but that ten years is a bet. What if your attempt fails? Frankly, you don’t have much to lose, you’ll be better equipped for the future no matter what, you won’t have worse than doing nothing, and maybe you’ll gain in pride, self-esteem, not doing your time, but being an actor. In this fictional organization the eyes turn at this moment, most people think, “say that to my boss”, and believe me this line never stops even the CEOs can talk about their boards of directors, their shareholders.
Is it about trying for years? Is it really trying when it takes so long? Trying is necessarily over a small period of time, small periods that accumulate, like small steps.
I’ll do it again.
So if organizations have a life expectancy of fifteen years nowadays. Or, let’s say they are never the same in fifteen years, they have to moult. But it is inaudible for people who have promised something else, who are far from the field, at least far from the end users, who have abandoned any commitment to comply with the course they have been promised. This is all the more inaudible because we are unable to say what the future of this organization will look like, because we cannot answer the questions raised precisely. Finally, how can we engage people with meaningless invectives such as “digital transformation”? We don’t know what that means, it’s not an end, just a means. But a way to do what? That we could measure. For example, we want information to circulate more quickly in the organization: we could have answers, measure it, observe it, and thus question how to change it, transform it. For example, we want to reach a new population of users, we could measure, observe, question and improve this. And here yes, we can talk about a necessary transformation. I believe that the fictional organization I am referring to needs to question itself about who it is, what it wants, and to question itself and try to constantly improve (and therefore constantly transform itself). It is the world that wants that, not to hear it seems to me to be a mistake.
One more time.
It’s normal not to want to change. That’s normal. Is it possible not to change? Nothing could be less certain. But I couldn’t convince you. It’s like the question of our habits and climate change. We can’t perceive it. Cause and effect are not easily associated for our brain. And then there it is.
It wasn’t supposed to happen.
It wasn’t supposed to happen.
That is what the Neanderthals, the Mayas, the Indians, the traders in 1929 or 2008, the teams of Kodak or Yahoo, the French chains facing Netflix, my bank with N26, the taxis with Uber, my baker from his new Chinese neighbour who makes bread without an oven, this woman when this man left him, or vice versa.
It wasn’t supposed to happen, for God’s sake!
And long live the ostriches! We are different!
Actually, I’m not asking you to change. I’m just asking you to do the right thing for this fictional organization. Not out of habit, not because it’s politically correct. Do what it takes to make the organization go in the direction of what it exists for. First of all, simply do what this fictitious organization exists for. Its meaning. The change then becomes a side effect. A damage or collateral benefit.
The fictitious organizations I meet are often mistaken, they point to the means as a target. They forget to give meaning. And I’m not talking about saving the world. Just to make sense. No tyranny of a vision that should be superlative, grandiose. Just to make sense. But not questions of means, questions of purpose.
There are three types of organizations, those that are closed, stopped, open. Open: they are aware that it is necessary to move in this direction and they try. Arrested: they agree that we must move in this direction, but you understand we can’t because… and the closed ones, who don’t see why we should move forward, or even move. For the latter, we have to wait until they feel ready, hoping that it will not be too late. And then there are advances that revolutionize the organization, completely reform it, they completely shake up their identities, their senses. And advances that simply make dysfunctional organizations functional without changing their foundations.
In this changing world, if we want this ability to constantly question and improve in order to achieve a goal (reach a new user population, get information flowing faster), we will have to engage people. The opposite of what usually happens in this fictional organization where people are told what to do, how to do it, without giving any meaning. And where they act without really investing themselves with the exact gesture, but minimal and without much value, that they have been asked to achieve by buying peace for all, the comfort of something known and predictable, but far below the needs. And without any sparkling eyes.
Thanks Deepl for the translation from french.
- First part : Why often no one wants to set their organization in motion ?
- Second part : Managerial problem and change of posture
- Third part : Introspection, exposure and coherence