I’ve been working around organisational change this week, exploring the space between ‘good’ and ‘excellent’. The premise is this: it’s reasonably easy to get an organisation from ‘bad’ to ‘good’. Implementing specific actions, sharing understanding, targeting learning, leading well. It’s not an impossible task: indeed, there are many good organisations out there. But in the Social Age, good may not be enough.
We recognise excellence, often expressed in the Dynamic organisation: able to innovate, coherent in culture and action, able to respond fast and fluidly to changing operational environments. Excellent is the place that many organisations want to be, but few manage to get there.
Because the chasm between ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ is vast, and it cannot be crossed through executive action alone.
You cannot drive excellent: you can simply create the circumstances for it to emerge, because excellence is more than just a system, more than just a reengineered process, more than just great leadership or great teams. It’s more than any of those, because it’s all of those and more. Excellence resides in the DNA of an organisation.
There is great commonality between organisations of every shape and size: that commonality resides in their imperfections. Every organisation has strengths and weakness The key to understanding excellence is that is lies in the space between people, the space between technologies, the space between processes. The issue is not a specific person, technology, process, product, market or office: the problem is the friction in the system. To be excellent, you have to be excellent throughout: strength in depth and at breadth. Which is precisely why you can’t get to excellent through executive action alone: you cannot order it or buy it. You can only achieve it together, through mindset, action and adaptation.
I talk to many people striving to unlock innovation within their organisation, but the truth is that innovation exists in most spaces. It just often lacks the ability to be heard, to be amplified, to be nurtured. Indeed, it often gets smothered, denied and starved. It does so because of the friction, because of resistance: when the DNA of the organisation is constrained, it’s hard to penetrate the lethargy. When the organisation is dynamic in it’s DNA, it’s hard to stop ideas spreading. Which is why excellent organisations draw ahead: not because they are excel in one space, but because they excel in many. They learn from their own excellence.
To the key to culture transformation lies not in one or two places, but rather in every place, with the change connected by golden principles or threads: principles of sharing, storytelling, learning, principles of social leadership, recognition, reputation, prototyping, humility and community based reward.