The Theme of The Right Idea
NOTE: This is the third in a series of Weekly Briefings on nine major themes for implementing organizational change found in academic journals. We are looking for clues to answer the question, “Why do some men’s discipleship programs succeed while others languish or fail?” For now, I leave it to you to apply these general summaries to your men’s discipleship program. You can also apply the themes more broadly to change your business, your church, or even your family.
The next major theme in implementing organizational change is having the right idea. Ideas are more powerful than labor. Ideas set forces in motion that, once released, can no longer be contained. For example, in the 1950s the CEO of Coca-Cola said his idea was, “I want to make it possible during my lifetime for anyone in the world to taste a Coke.”
Today you can ascend to the top of the highest mountains in Nepal or descend to the nadir of Death Valley and find, what? Empty Coke cans. Yes, having the right idea is a powerful force.
Change initiatives necessarily begin with an idea, whether it is to implement a new program, change policy, restructure, introduce a new strategy, or launch a new technology or other innovation. However, Collins and Porras (1997, p. 7) found that not many of the visionary companies they studied started with the right idea. Instead, they often failed at first but persevered over the long haul until they found the right idea. Factors related to this theme found in the literature will now be introduced.
Gather and analyze information. Where do ideas (and a sense of urgency about them) come from? Ideas—and particularly good ideas—come out of the overflow of gathering and analyzing information (Freedman, 2003). The idea is paramount, but the resonance of the idea will, no doubt, depend upon how well it addresses the challenges confronting the organization—challenges for which information must be gathered and analyzed.
Vision. A resonant idea expressed as a clear, inspirational vision is the foundation of strategy formulation (Freedman, 2003; Kotter 1995). To find and then articulate a pithy, motivational vision is why information is gathered and analyzed. Creating this picture of the future is a task of leadership, not management (Kotter, 2001). The clear vision will need to be translated into a specific goal (Houston-Philpot, 2002). Collins and Porras (1997, p. 9) coined the term Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to describe the large scale goals set by the visionary companies they studied that inspired greater results. One researcher found empirical evidence to conclude that building a shared vision with down-line managers was a key factor to successful change (Beer, 2003). Ayas and Zeniuk (2001) found that long term project-based learning could not be sustained without a sense of purpose (i.e., vision).
A sense of urgency. Kotter found that the first step in leading a change initiative was to create a sense of urgency that the change was needed. He found in professional practice with 100 plus companies that 50% of the studied organizations failed to get beyond the idea stage because they did not create a sense of need for the change (Kotter, 1995, 1996).
Efficacy. The effectiveness of implementation depends upon the efficacy of the program—the idea has to work (Houston-Philpot, 2002; Johnson, Hays, Center, & Daley, 2004). However, even if a change program does work, it will still fail if it is perceived by key players as not working (Pluye et al., 2004).
In summary, having the right idea is a major theme in bringing about organizational change. Related factors include gathering and analyzing information, creating a clear and compelling vision, creating a sense of urgency for change, and introducing an initiative that works and is perceived to work. Next week the theme of planning will be examined.
For the glory of Christ and no other reason,
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