Strategy, Culture and The Wisdom of a King

An ancient king once said in an address to his people, “…see that these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.” The premise here is to prioritize correctly and not try and do everything at once. True and sustainable success is a long game.

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is usually a shift in strategy that requires a change throughout the organization. The best and lasting change considers all the stakeholders of the change, and the potential risk to those stakeholders. A plan for the change is then developed and executed, much like any other project.

Organizations are tempted to jump in to wholesale change because the perceived results of the change are financially seductive. However, wholesale change often has unintended consequences that will frequently swallow expected benefits.

I recently read an article in APICS Magazine entitled “Award Winning Responsiveness”. The article was about Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and the OCM process they went through to become more nimble and responsive to the customer.

There were two significant statements in the article. First was by the senior director of supply chain for Mallinckrodt, David Widder, CPIM, who stated: “As I look back on what we have accomplished, the biggest challenge was this change of culture” (italics added).

For any organizational change to take place, the culture must be changed. Ken Snyder, Executive Director of the Shingo Institute, defines culture as “the accumulation of behaviors of the people within the organization.” Because people are involved real change takes time. Where wholesale change takes place, people tend to resist, often thwarting the effort to change. This activity becomes non-value add (NVA).

The second statement was by the author of the article, stating, “The strategy [at Mallinckrodt] began with small changes and realistic, aligned goals.” Again, this speaks of thoughtful, deliberate and well-planned change within an organization and of setting the appropriate priorities for that change to make the strategy effective.

Who would have thought a king of more than two millennia ago would have understood culture and strategy in business today? Perhaps the idea is timeless. An interesting notion.