In 2002 a friend of mine told me: “Charles, Change does not happen out of itself, someone needs to do it”.
Reflecting on what he said 14 years ago, I cannot but admire how fresh this statement is and will continue to be even after more than a decade of being said. We all think, talk, and argue about change, but in the real world, do we actually do it, or at least are we the good catalysts that make change happen?
Of course, Change should not happen for the sake of Change. Change is a Dynamic of the Universe, and hence the need for us to keep moving with this Universe in order to survive. Standing stiff in the face of Change might as well break us, still, adapting to it demands effort; bottom line, if we are leading or adapting to change, it is inevitable that we are bound to do something about it, else nothing will happen, or even worse, we might as well be smashed by it. What is this all about?
More and more, I am noticing a regular syndrome that comes across while working with CEOs. Most of them complain that their directives do not get done. A lot of ideas and initiatives are discussed in executive meetings, yet at the end of the day they notice that much of what was agreed upon never materializes. It is indeed frustrating, I agree. Imagine you are a CEO of a multimillion dollar Business agreeing with your executive Board that this Product be modified, or that supplier be replaced, or this process be drafted, then two months later you discover that nothing of those happened! This makes the person questions himself: What is wrong? Why aren’t people doing what I ask them to do? Where are all those initiatives that were approved by the Executive Committee?
Well, the answer is basic: Absence of Ownership.
The syndrome that CEOs are facing is simply the problem of ‘Absence of Ownership’. Too often, CEOs tend to discuss executive agendas and make collective decisions through voting or general consensus. Yet, their major mistake is that they keep those decisions at the collective level. Many CEOs and Directors are failing to see the relationship between keeping decisions at the collective level and transferring them down to the Individual level. Every collective decision needs a single Owner, be that a single person or a committee; put simply, Decisions need Owners.
Failing to do so makes thinking, talking, and arguing about Change a useless process.
CEO’s and Directors need to learn the hard way that stating an idea, giving an instruction, or making a collective decision, will not make things happen. They need to ensure an owner is assigned for those decisions. And mind you, we are not implying at “the spirit of ownership” resulting from engaged employees, rather we are pointing towards real Ownership of a Decision. We are talking about when you decide to modify a product, you need to assign a Product Development Manager; we are talking if you want to replace a supplier you need to have an Administration Function to do it; we are talking if you want a Process drafted, you need to have an OD (Organization Development) Specialist in your company to carry it out. This is how we can create ownership for Change.
Decisions and initiatives, just like Change, do not get executed on their own, because as my dear friend said 14 years ago, they need someone (an Owner) to do them.