The failed model of executive-led change

I think about things that other people think are odd.  For example, I’ve wondered for years why it is that almost all business books and consulting pitches assume that the reader or receiver of services is an executive (the .01 to .1% of employees of an organization).  That led me to wonder why I, clearly not an executive, was reading all these books or reviewing all these consulting pitches.

Here’s what I’ve come up with: Executives get to okay large book orders or approve massive consulting contracts.  Therefore the books and the services go where the money is. And I, the non-executive, was reading all of this stuff because if you want to read about change management you don’t have any other sources to go to other than these executive-centric tomes.

While the monopoly of the executives continues in books and consulting, its strangle hold on the idea marketplace is relaxing.  Non-executives are connected via Twitter and LinkedIn and name-your-platform like never before.  I don’t need to ask my boss if I may learn from Seth Godin or Daniel Pink or name-your-guy-or-gal today.  I can just follow them digitally, let their ideas fill my mind, and (here’s the important part) act on what my new thinking tells me.

In most organizations, I’d wager a guess that most truly meaningful changes begin at a level far below the executives.  So, for the other 99.99% or even just the other 99.9% of us that toil away in organizations, there must be something that helps us understand how we can make a meaningful, sustained difference in our organization.

The best thing I’ve found to date (though I’m still diligently looking, and taking suggestions for where to look) is the concept of driving change.  Nowhere does driving change presuppose you possess any level of organizationally-offered power.  Instead it starts with the premise that you have power inside you to impact those around you, and if you’d only use it, you could make a difference.

That seems so simple.  So quick.  So it-can’t-possibly-be-enough.  Yet, I really think it is.

Richard Feynman didn’t have to be appointed a great teacher.  He just was one.

Martin Luther King Jr didn’t work his way up the hierarchy of civil rights leaders.  He acted, boldly and in his own way, and people followed.

Heck, one of my heroes, Admiral H. G. Rickover had to be saved by Congress several times from impending forced retirements because the people guarding the ladder in the Navy would rather not have his outcomes (safe, effective nuclear powered vessels) if it meant they didn’t have to be bothered with him.  He didn’t let their failure to  bestow organizational power stop him from achieving what he believed was right and essential for his country.  We remember him as a four-star admiral, but he started driving change long before he wore any stars.

Don’t let business books and consulting sales pitches lull you into thinking that until you’re an executive you can’t make a difference in your organization.  The power to lead, drive, and win change already exists inside you.  Are you bold enough, brave enough, strong enough to let it out?  When (not if) you try, I’m right here with you.

Let’s drive some change together.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.

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