If organizations want to survive the turmoil of future technologies, they need to be open to change. The first act then is to rid themselves from practicing the following three fallacies.

In meetings with partners and clients, it is not uncommon for them to ask about how we can help improve business processes, teach them tools, or even certify their people, so they can become masters of their own futures. We’re happy (and so honored) to get them on their way. However, what we often ask them to do is much more basic. We’re asking them to change.

If organizations want to survive the turmoil of future technologies, they need to be open to change. This is not easy. Our pre-conditioned ideas about what is possible can act as the top restrictive factor, impeding our disposition for change, limiting our collective learning, and choking the flow of ideas that can be converted into superior value offerings to customers. The first act then is to rid organizations from practicing the following three fallacies.

Fallacy #1: Leaders are responsible for the growth of the organization.

Organizational leaders are accountable for the performance of the organization, but they are not solely responsible for it. Everyone in the organization is responsible for the growth and prosperity of the organization. As Jim Collins presented in his bestseller Good to Great, attributing the success of an organization to a leader is archaic thinking. In fact, Collins noted that out of 1,435 top-performing companies, only eleven made the cut as a good-to-great company. Growing people to take the reins of the company was the hallmark of those companies that made the leap.[1]

Translation? One person cannot attend to everything that happens in an organization. In the future, this will be improbable. The role of the leader is to elevate the leadership in the organization. Specifically, as organizations become more global and decentralized, elevating the leadership in the organization will require a perspective beyond national borders. The leader can start the process by concentrating on developing leadership behaviors that will accelerate learning, in turn, enhancing the performance of members across cross-cultural and multi-national business engagements.

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” –Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

As we review the literature and evaluate our experience of successful leadership across borders, six areas stand out. Research has highlighted Ability, Adaptability, Ambassadorship, and Awareness as the “Four As” of accelerated learning across multi-cultural business environments in effective expatriate leaders.[2] The other two are Perspective Taking (understanding what another one is telling and incorporating that point of view into one’s thinking to create a different view of the situation) and Cultural Curiosity (naturally asking questions and independently searching for information).[3]

Fallacy #2: Culture is hard to change.

Many leaders use the above statement as an excuse to avert working on the deeper issues in their organizations. The result? The effect of neglecting culture is waste, lots of it! Consider two examples that illustrate the point:

Within Organizations. Up to three-quarters of all the most popular management initiatives in TQM, business process re-engineering, and downsizing efforts used in the past two decades to bring prospects of life to companies have come short of meeting business performance expectations; the number one root-cause listed has been leadership’s lack of attention to organizational culture.[4]

Across Cultures. Although it seems as if the cultures of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are close to each other, they differ in major ways. Germans, for example, ranked higher in assertiveness than those in the US and UK. Language can accentuate this fact by misallocating the meaning of the words and by misconstruing the tone used in providing emphasis to the language expressions.[5]

Leaders shape the culture of their organizations when they act deliberately. We offer that leaders can act as the architects of their organization’s culture by taking an operational framework approach to culture, similar to the framework military commanders use in the field to win military campaigns.[6] The right culture is the one that increases collaboration and turns information into actionable milestones. We recommend leaders use our seven critical practices as their framework (see also Roadmap to Collaboration white paper.)[7]

Fallacy #3: My organization is at the cutting age of innovation.

This fallacy has been responsible for the demise of many enterprises. The leaders were unable to believe in anything that would contradict the idea that they were not superior as an organization. This happened to Kodak, Blockbusters, and Sony. When the reality was evident, they found themselves in crisis. How could this happen?

The problem occurs when the organization becomes comfortable doing the work, optimizing and operating as they have always done it. Little by little, leaders (and the organization) begin to work in silos, especially as they become good at what they do, and become disconnected.

The above scenario is also seen today in the planning of smart cities. In June of 2017, the city of Austin, Texas hosted a conference to talk about the developments of Smart Cities in the US. The major topic of conversation was in regards to how the next generation smart city (Smart City 2.0) would look like. At the same time, the cities of Amsterdam, Singapore, and Tokyo are already known as 2.0 cities, and Amsterdam claims to be on its way to become a smart city 3.0.[8] Seems as if cities in the US, as noted by the necessity to hold such conference, may have come short of being at the cutting edge of this movement. This scenario and the previous are key reasons why leadership must be developed across borders.

Organizations can avoid the two mentioned scenarios by developing global perspectives of their business operations. This can be as easy as developing leadership global partnerships while at the same time optimizing the organization’s key learning mechanisms to capture and act on what leaders learn from their time abroad in those partnerships. Incentives can be established to reward leaders (formal and informal alike) who are able to translate the knowledge acquired abroad into ventures that change the way the organization operates and presents its offerings.

Wrapping up!

Thriving in a world full of complexities will come as the product of openness to change while operating with a global leadership perspective. Specifically, leaders will need to be quick at learning from what they see abroad and expediently translate this learning into organizational action and gain. Additionally, effective leadership and organizational growth will become a reality once the organization overcomes traditional thinking about the three fallacies discussed in this post with new thinking and acting. Openness to change, after all, not only changes us but also our organizations!

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Always motivated, lugo

© Copyright LugoSantiago Enterprise Group 2019

References and Notes:

[1] Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap—and others don’t. New York, NY: HarperBusiness. 21, 220.

[2] Jones, R. P., Lyu, J., Runyan, R., Fairhurst, A., Kim, Y-K., & Jolly, L. (2014). Cross-cultural consensus: development of the universal leadership model. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 42(4), 240-266.

[3] Caligiuri, P. (2012). Cultural agility: Building a pipeline of successful global professionals. San Francisco, CA; Jossey-Bass.

[4] Hultman, K. & Gellermann, B. (2002). Balancing individual and organizational values: Walking the tightrope to success. New York: NY: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. 11; Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework (3rd. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[5] Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

[6] LugoSantiago, J. (2017, August 28). Creating Shared Culture in Merged Organizations. Air & Space Power Journal, 31(3), 85-94.

[7] LugoSantiago, J. (2018). Roadmap to collaboration: Journey from silos to enterprise. Journal of Business Strategy, 39(3), 17-25.

[8] Garfield, L. (2017 November 10). These 10 cities are the most prepared for the future. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/these-10-cities-are-the-most-prepared-for-the-future; Hynes, C. (2017, November 17). Singapore ranks as world’s no. 2 smart city, report says. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chynes/2017/11/10/singapore-ranks-as-one-of-the-top-smart-cities-in-the-world/#31606e31717d;