The Theme of Execution
NOTE: This is the sixth 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.
Have you ever been more discouraged? Six months ago you launched your new men’s discipleship initiative. Everyone at that kickoff meeting was pumped up about how men’s discipleship could rescue hurting men, restore families, and save marriages. Now, six months later, everything that hasn’t completely fizzled out is gasping for air. What happened?
It’s pretty easy to overestimate the ease of executing the plan for a new program. It’s easy to think others will be as passionate, will follow through, will care as much, and be as responsible as we are. But even the best people have to be nurtured along. Here are some proven factors that pertain to successfully executing the plan….
Pilot projects. Pilot projects should be executed as part of implementing a major organizational change initiative (Houston-Philpot, 2002; LeBrasseur, 2002). In fact, pilot projects should be part of the operational planning process (Okumus, 2003). A pilot project that works may attract additional support, quell resisters, and prevent large capital losses.
Implementing the change. Execution of the operational plans can be hampered by failure to coordinate properly, not making plans in enough detail, and getting distracted by other priorities (Alexander, 1985). Implementing the change includes having the proper policies and procedures in place (Johnson et al., 2004).
Getting feedback. Encouraging feedback can increase implementation success through a formal evaluation process and strong management information systems (Okumus, 2003).
Making adjustments. Making mid-course adjustments is a factor in implementing a continuous improvement program (Beer, 2003). Adjustments must be made for unforeseen major problems that occur, often outside of the organization’s control (Alexander, 1985). For example, responding appropriately to changing environmental changes is a factor (Okumus, 2003). A method is needed to evaluate progress and make the necessary adjustments (Freedman, 2003). Obstacles must be identified and adjustments made during implementation, during which time the continued support of the CEO is important (Houston-Philpot, 2002). The organization should also stand ready to resource adjustments as needed (McNish, 2002). Structures must be adjusted as needed (Freedman, 2003; Johnson et al., 2004).
Taking too much time. Successful implementation requires consistent effort, even when results are delayed (Repenning, 2002).Taking too much time is documented as a significant problem when implementing major strategic decisions (Alexander, 1985). Because taking too much time is a consistently occurring problem, an effective implementation plan will build a time contingency into the execution plan.
Accountability and evaluation. Evaluating results is a factor in implementation (Johnson et al., 2004). Organizational change initiatives should be designed for systematic feedback, like debriefs and project audits (Ayas & Zeniuk, 2001; Popper and Lipshitz, 2000). Successful implementations should be evaluated, the results rated, the reasons for variances identified, and lessons learned should be recorded for institutional memory (Okumus, 2003). Implementation can encounter problems when the system to monitor and evaluate results is inadequate (Alexander, 1985).
In summary, proper execution of the implementation plan is a major theme in bringing about organizational change. Related factors include conducting pilot projects, implementing the change, getting feedback, making adjustments, a contingency for taking too much time, and obtaining systematic feedback to evaluate results. Next week, the theme of communication will be reviewed.
For the glory of Christ and no other reason,
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Ayas, K., & Zeniuk, N. (2001). Project-based learning: building communities of reflective practitioners. Management Learning, 32(1), 61-76.
Beer, M. (2003). Why total quality management programs do not persist: the role of management quality and implications for leading a TQM transformation. Decision Sciences, 34(4), 623-642.
Charan, R. & Colvin, G. (1999). Why CEOs fail. Fortune 139(12), pp. 68-75.
Freedman, M. (2003). The genius is in the implementation. Journal of Business Strategy, 24(2), 26-31.
Houston-Philpot, K. (2002). Leadership development partnerships at Dow Corning corporation. Journal of Organizational Excellence, 22(1), 13-27.
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Kotter, J. (1999). Ten observations. Executive Excellence, August, 1999, 15-16.
Kotter, J. P. (2001). What leaders really do. Harvard Business Review, 79(11), 85-96.
LeBrasseur, R., Whissell, R., & Ojha, A. (2002). Organisational learning, transformational leadership and implementation of continuous quality improvement in canadian hospitals. Australian Journal of Management, 27(2), 141-162.
Miller, D. (2002). Successful change leaders: what makes them? what do they do that is different? Journal of Change Management, 2(4), 359-368.
McNish, M. (2002). Guidelines for managing change: a study of their effects on the implementation of new information technology projects in organization. Journal of Change Management, 2(3), 201-211.
Okumus, F. (2003). A framework to implement strategies in organizations. Management Decision, 41(9), 871-882.
Repenning, N. P. (2002). A simulation-based approach to understanding the dynamics of innovation implementation. Organization Science: A Journal of the Institute of Management Sciences, 13(2), 109-127.
Zaleznik, A. (2004). Managers and leaders: are they different? Harvard Business Review, (82)1, 74-81.