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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Innovation, Freedom & Discipline

Michael Schrage has an interesting article on change management. He points out that “The Give Change a Hug” crowd swears that successful change management requires welcoming arms and open minds. They're wrong. Skepticism is best practice. Enterprise change hugging should be done with the same level of care as swimming with sharks or playing with porcupines: It's going to hurt no matter what ‘s done. Change management is pain management. Change management—like pain management—is really process management, and change leadership is really process leadership. That's true for people, systems and apps.
Pointing out that process leadership can provide manifold times more returns, he writes that foundational controls are essential for process leadership. Truly innovative companies value discipline as much, if not more, than they do freedom and flexibility of execution. The IT Process institute survey finds that elite IT performers weren't just two or three times better than median performers—they were seven or eight times better. High performers—roughly 13 percent of the 98 sampled—contributed on average eight times more projects, four and a half times more applications and software, four and a half times more IT services, and seven times more business IT changes. They implemented 14 more changes with half the failure rate. Top-tier performers weren't change embracers or innovation huggers. They identified and enforced "process commandments" that constrained wasteful behaviors while reinforcing productive discipline. Essentially stricter and better controls directly drives better execution – the effects of which can be seen in increased confidence, more effective usage of budgets and the loop of better returns on greater investments sets in, all other things being equal. Achieving tomorrow's high-performance organizations will involve massive changes throughout their process and capability infrastructures and methods. The complexity of implementing these changes will be daunting, and deserves a strategic approach intertwined with flawless execution.

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