I am increasingly detecting concerns from project managers and advocates of analytics-based enterprise performance improvement initiatives that senior executives are not sufficiently on-board or exhibiting buy-in thus jeopardizing the implementation success of the initiative. What is going on?
An example of evidence is a recent Linkedin.com discussion group that I’ve participated in. The dialog began with the question, “Why is the adoption rate of ‘xxx’ by organizations taking so long?” I deliberately masked the specific performance improvement methodology with ‘xxx’ to not allow you to form a bias. Simply insert whatever project or methodology for the ‘xxx’ that you wish was making greater and faster progress in your organization.
Examples of initiatives might include embracing identifying and monitoring scorecard and dashboard key performance indicators (KPIs) for alignment and accountability, demand forecasting with capacity planning, driver-based rolling financial projections, or customer profitability analysis. You will likely have other initiatives that you are disappointed with your organization’s speed of progress. What is a barrier impeding success?
What is wrong with senior executives?
I suspect I caught your attention with that heading. My question implies that executives are to blame. Are they? Let’s step back. What qualities might we expect of senior management leaders? We think of them as being visionary, creative, inspirational, and also having the drive to succeed. But there is a more interesting quality. Recent research published by Dr. David J. Linden, a professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins School of Medicine, claims that the psychological profile of a compelling leader is as a compulsive risk-taker who possesses novelty-seeking behavior. And Linden’s research provides evidence that these traits are genetic. (A leadership gene?) My intent is to not foster a “nature versus nurture” debate with you. My takeaway from Linden’s observations is that novelty-seeking behavior in leaders is an indication of their desire to challenge established tradition in practices – the status quo.
Passive monitoring versus active involvement
What does this almost casino-like behavior observed in leaders have to do with the success of implementing enterprise performance initiatives? My concern is their being inquisitive is not enough to improve organizational performance. My belief is that the leaders who encourage change and organizational transformation are ones who will see change realized.
However, returning to my the concern of the Linkedin.com discussion group, a repeated complaint by the discussants was with executives who approve and fund an initiative but then wait to see its completion without being actively engaged in the initiative. Brringggg! An alarm bell goes off. The discussants’ consensus is that the executives should be involved from the beginning to the end of the project or initiative – not simply monitoring project updates. Their contributions during the project are big motivators to others. Hence, the message to executives: If you want to be on the landing then be on the take-off !
I find that managers of companies who need to improve their performance try to do too much at one time and most things become too superficial to be taken forward. Then we have several implementation projects which are started kind of from the middle. There is no clear start or end. ‘How the heck and why did we get up here, and where should we land’ is then the question of the confused pilot. ‘I just remember the manager saying that get up there fast’.
Agreeing with Gary: Prioritize the take-offs and allow only those you can properly support, prepare a decent flight plan and be present at landings.
Thanks for commenting on my article and continuing with the airline analogy.
Subsequently I posted a blog about leadership qualities and the “nature versus nurture” based on a presentation I attended. The key qualities were technical competence, critical thinking skills, and communication skills. The presenter, Alan Dunn, cited that these are more relevant than ambition, team spirit, collegiality, integrity, courage, tenacity, discipline, and confidence.
Gary Cokins, SAS