On Alignment and Square Wheels

Ed Hampton shared some good ideas in Team-Net called "Organizations...

Acquisitions" and shared some really good ideas about helping the alignment and process.

Summarizing briefly:

a. Two biggest enemies: false perceptions/beliefs and information flow.

b. The leadership needs to establish the identity and the strategic agenda

c. get stakeholders together and involve them as early as possible.

d. Get an internal steering committee together

e. Get a transition newsletter going ASAP

f. People want access to the top dog.

g. Do surveys

h. Get a good consultant who can coach the top leader(s)

Great List.

Let me take a crack at this from a somewhat different perspective that listmembers might find useful, using the Square Wheels One image that I will continue to make available for free on request.

Start by envisioning the organization's wagon being pulled by the leader and pushed by supporters rolling on wooden Square Wheels with a cargo of round rubber tires with rims. Now image two wagons, with the leaders out for a meeting, but the workers pushing them together forcefully (with a loud crunching noise as the wooden wagons begin to collapse under this pressure).

Think of that as "Merger." One issue is a lack of shared goals and direction. And much of work is competitive, like a tug of war, with workers and management expecting winners (and losers). Duh. This SHOULD be done synergistically and SHOULD take advantage of the workers inherent knowledge.

It's about communications and missions and goals for all of those involved as opposed to survival of the fittest and competition between organizations that results in sub-optimization of performance.

Okay, now let's address REALITY. Crunch!

Put the original wagon back on the journey forward - "Thump Thump."

Now, put all the people and the wagons "Up to their 'axles' in mud." That is how it really seems to operate in larger organizations, with the mud representing the organizational glop and the bureaucracy / politics and the like. REALLY tough to make progress and wheel shape is not all that important.

Realize however that certain managers are exceptionally good at managing the mud and glop. This is because they do things differently!

They have learned more effective ways of dealing with the glop - ways that can be learned by the other managers and workers as they try to improve the performance. These behavioral differences can be made apparent and shared - they can help others "Out of the ditch and up on the road." And it is not a costly thing -- it's mostly about taking the time and sharing ideas.

This is why Ed's ideas are so good -- they push the group toward understanding and communications. They make it a shared journey forward.


He also said in a later post to me discussing some of the same points:

Leaders have to get people into an "adult" mode of operation so they will make rational and objective choices. These move the company forward, not sideways. After all is said and done, that's the way Square Wheels move best.

Ed Westerdahl

But also recognize that the round wheels must have the "rims of effective implementation" and that the organization must prepare the axles for these new and different ideas.

This is a leadership and top dog issue. Instead of the dog "scent marking" on the wooden wheels, they need to be "wagging tails of encouragement" for all those involved in making things better and improving performance results.

Hope you found this entertaining and a bit useful.

Scott Simmerman


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