Being honest is hard work.
You’re trying to survive the grind. You keep your head down, do your job day in, day out, until the day you can move up a peg in the rat race. And then you take that opportunity, enjoy it for a second, and then back to work. The rat race.
One of those pegs is buying a car. When the day comes you can afford one, you look long and hard at your options, eventually settling on a used Renault Clio. You drive it back home with a tingle down your spine. You’re now free to roam the world in a fortified cocoon of self-realization. At least that’s the sales pitch. And you enjoy it.
Soon, the car becomes part of your social persona, another accessory people use to put you into a social category. Fake Hipster (New Mini Hardtop). Annoying hipster (Original Mini Cooper). Up-and-coming professional (Audi A3). Mid-Life Crisis (Porsche Panamera). Mid life crisis but-wants-to-pretend-it’s-not (Tesla).
And before you notice it, you’re attached to that thing. It’s seen you at your best and at your worst. There is no lying to your car, it knows who you are, where you go and how often you tell your friends “I’m just looking for parking”, when the reality is you just left home, late as usual.
So when the inevitable happens and the car starts to break down, you’re faced with a choice. You can spend hours (and cash) trying to fix it up. You can wax it, clean out the engine, get new tires, and fix all the little kinks its developed over the last years - those you keep trying to convince yourself are part of the car’s personality. You can do all that… or you can admit it’s time to move on, sell it, and buy a new one. Both choices imply some pain - either the time and money you invest to fix it, or the pain of letting it go and losing the history attached to it. But regardless of the choice you take, there is a first step that is going to be the same - you need to recognize that it’s time to change something.
You need to realize your once trusty companion is now old, rusty and no longer fit for the job.
You need to be honest.
Organizational transformation is a strange game. Honesty is at a premium and resistance is abundant.
The leadership of the organization recognizes they are lagging behind the competition. They can smell the rusting vision, see the rigidity of a process-focused culture, and feel the apathy hanging around the coffee machine.
And these are smart people. They can see these problems. It’s very unusual to see a CEO who thinks he is driving a Porsche when he’s actually driving a Lada. The real issue for them is that telling shareholders they have invested in a Lada is career suicide in the shareholder-is-king paradigm. So these organizational leaders have to spend their time worrying about short-term results, trying to get the last drop of performance out of their Lada. This means sacrificing the long-term success of the company, and the cognitive dissonance this creates is often times too big of a burden to bear, which is why these organizations are always undergoing some kind of half-assed change initiative.
“Now we really mean it,” says the organizational leader, with just enough conviction to sound like a used-car salesman that seems to be trying to convince both himself and the potential buyer.
Organizations move from one failed change initiative to another, an endless streak of pimp-my-ride facelifts, desperately trying to make the raggedy, clunky, shitty ol’ Lada look like a Porsche. And when you join this organization, the dissonance between what management is preaching and what the people are saying to each other during coffee breaks is so huge that you can almost see the inertia in the building.
Now, imagine walking into this building, right past Momentum, Purpose, Motivation and Joy, which are all desperately running out as if escaping from a fire, and then sitting down with some of the organizational leaders who look you straight in the face and say “we want you to help us getting our development teams to do Scrum, we heard this will make them more motivated and productive.” Right, because all the Lada needs is a new paint job, some wax, and elbow grease, and voilá… we’re good to go.
So you look around the room, checking the faces of these leaders, gently asking questions as you try to figure out one thing - do these guys know they’re driving a freaking Lada?!? Do they realize they have driven it to the ground? Do they realize that years of neglect means quick fixes just won’t work anymore?
Do they realize they need to change?