To give credit where it’s due, I recently read a book written by a new friend, Robert Nitschke, titled, “Creating a Collaborative Enterprise.” (Nitschke, 2012) I urge anyone interested in culture improvement to read Bob’s book. There are a million ways to analyze organizational culture but Bob’s book helped focus a few key concepts in my mind. Without trying to take anything away from the book, the read inspired this blog post to consider the overlap of leadership, change and business process. Let’s look at each individually and then together.

Leadership

Over time, the word has become abused and yet still has an uplifting sparkle. From this practitioner’s point of view, leadership is critical, not because it’s the only thing but because it’s under-taught and under-used. The ability to think long-term and bring that perspective back to the present in a constant search for more complete paradigms is a critical, competitive advantage for any organization. All too often, it is easy to become used to “the way things are” and fall into a rut of doing like we’ve always done it … forgetting the original reasons why.

Leadership jars those of us in the status quo quagmire into new ways of thinking and doing. Jim Collins’ advice to “preserve the core and innovate everything else” is sage advice for the organization desiring to stick around. (Collins, 1994)

Change

I have come to believe people do not resist change so much as they resist senseless change. People must get an idea of what’s in it for them if they are to embrace or at least tolerate change. This allowance for change ranges from passionate “kool-aid drinkers” to the person who simply wants to keep getting a paycheck. Regardless of the motivation, most team members are naturally drawn to success and can be won over in time.

The interesting thing about change is it is both art and science. For example, one excerpt in John Kotter’s book, “Leading Change” suggests a scientific approach with eight steps to creating change. (Kotter, 1996) The how-to-execute these seemingly scientific steps is where art comes into play.

Business Process

Change is incomplete without considering business processes. The underlying, steady driver that keeps organizations running is the process machine (built partly by intent and partly by evolution). Without regular house-cleaning, business process can easily slow down an otherwise smooth running operation with unneeded obstacles and extra steps. In many cases, such problems occur between departments who unknowingly optimize their own areas to the unintended detriment of the greater whole.

Collaborative Culture

Far from being group-think without direction or coherent focus, collaborative culture is an engaging, dynamic entity … as it should be! This doesn’t happen by accident but is the intersection of humble leadership, change for the sake of vibrant business results and alignment of business process. Forget leadership and the destination is unknown. Take out change and any organization will eventually disappear regardless of how noble the purpose. Neglect business process management and find an organization driving like a car with two square wheels.

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Are there more important pieces to collaborative culture besides the above? How would you prioritize leadership, change and business process? What would you add, change or delete?

References

Collins, Jim (1994). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York, NY. Harper Business.

Kotter, John (1996). Leading Change. Cambridge, MA. Harvard Business Review Press.

Nitschke, Robert (2012). Creating a Collaborative Enterprise: Retool Your Organization to Dominate Your Markets. Bothell, WA. Book Publishers Network.