The old ways of setting and implementing strategy are failing us, writes the author of Leading Change, in part because we can no longer keep up with the pace of change. Organizational leaders are torn between trying to stay ahead of increasingly fierce competition and needing to deliver this year’s results. Although traditional hierarchies and managerial processes–the components of a company’s “operating system”–can meet the daily demands of running an enterprise, they are rarely equipped to identify important hazards quickly, formulate creative strategic initiatives nimbly, and implement them speedily. The solution Kotter offers is a second system–an agile, network-like structure–that operates in concert with the first to create a dual operating system. In such a system the hierarchy can hand off the pursuit of big strategic initiatives to the strategy network, freeing itself to focus on incremental changes to improve efficiency. The network is populated by employees from all levels of the organization, giving it organizational knowledge, relationships, credibility, and influence. It can liberate information from silos with ease. It has a dynamic structure free of bureaucratic layers, permitting a level of individualism, creativity, and innovation beyond the reach of any hierarchy. The network’s core is a guiding coalition that represents each level and department in the hierarchy, with a broad range of skills. Its drivers are members of a “volunteer army” who are energized by and committed to the coalition’s vividly formulated, high-stakes vision and strategy. Kotter has helped eight organizations, public and private, build dual operating systems over the past three years. He predicts that such systems will lead to long-term success in the 21st century–for shareholders, customers, employees, and companies themselves.
Question for Discussion
Based on the reading and analysis of this paper, and your understanding of the topics covered in this course, post your discussion on whether you agree or disagree with the following and explain your rationale:
The inevitable failures of single operating systems hurt us now. They are going to kill us in the future. The 21st century will force us all to evolve toward a fundamentally new form of organization. I believe that I have basically described that form here. We still have much to learn. Nevertheless, the companies that get there first, because they act now, will see immediate and long-term success—for shareholders, customers, employees, and themselves. Those that lag will suffer greatly, if they survive at all.