Beyond the ‘usual suspects’


Unless you are very lucky, your organisation’s performance and experience of change, collaboration, leadership, succession planning, employee engagement and agility have all been very mixed: some notable successes but lots of disappointments. Traditional approaches in all these areas have been useful in getting your organisation to where it is today: but the next big step forward is seriously overdue.

CEOs and other senior managers have reached a brick wall. They have for decades been squeezing as much as they can from IT developments and process improvements: most of these achievable benefits are already in place.

So where will the next big step forward come from? Looking around most organisations, the answer is obvious: if IT and process improvements are maturing, what about the big failure area – the area where most CEOs despair of finding meaningful improvements – the people In their organisations!

A few simple facts spell out the scale of the problem:

  • Leadership is a perennial problem, with survey after survey bemoaning leadership quality in even the most innovative organisations
  • Most major change programmes are late and over budget: more importantly they consistently fail to achieve desired business objectives (average 70% failure rates, year after year)
  • Less than 25% of employees are ‘engaged’ with the organisations they work for
  • The HR function has very little influence on the strategy of the organisation: look at any HR conference agenda and you will find a consistent underlying theme – How can we get out of the current state of failure and make a real contribution to the business?

Fortunately, a white knight is now emerging from the mists of all this confusion and failure. Type ‘informal networks’ into Google and prepare to abandon many of your pre-conceptions about leadership, management and engagement. Here is a flavour of what you will find:

  • The most influential people in your organisation will be found in the large work groups: managers (and particularly senior managers) will score relatively lowly in any influence survey. Senior managers will justify their existence through the judgements they make on the future of the organisation, not through their influence with colleagues.
  • Those who strongly influence colleagues are the key to successful change implementation: where these influential individuals are involved closely in change activities, success rates average about 90% and overall employee engagement rises to over 50%. Forget the ‘usual suspects’, influencers win hearts and minds.
  • Finally, influencers are just one of the groups that make up the full landscape of informal networks. Innovators, collaborators, experts, communicators and many other informal leaders are the building blocks of ‘the next big step forward’.

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