Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Friday, June 06, 2003  

The Danger of Playing that Old Game of Resistance with Leadership-by-Committee

Chapter Two: The Ridge

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four

"When faced with change, type-D (danger oriented) people generally respond in a reactive, rather than a proactive, fashion. They tend to avoid the forces of change in themselves and others as long as possible. When a major change can no longer be ignored, they have too little time to plan an appropriate response strategy. Since the need to change is invariably acknowledged late, they are left with only their knee-jerk reactions to defend themselves, or their families, organizations, industries, or countries. Last-minute reactions to change are usually ineffective. But I actually believe that D-type personalities would be only slightly more effective if they took the time to plan for change. They simply lack the knowledge and skill to accurately anticipate the need, diagnose the potential resistance problems, design a plan of action, and manage the implementation process.”

Daryl R. Conner, "Managing At the Speed of Change"

Journal of 2020 Foresight: You covered a lot of topics last time beginning with the change scenarios: no change, continuous change, sporadic change, discontinuous change, and collapse.

Trailblazer: That’s right. And as we see later, any organization that plans to survive longer than a decade in today’s environment will have to master most of them at one time or another.

J2020F: By that you mean they’ll have to initiate old game, new game, turning point strategies, and breakpoint strategies?

TB: If they don’t they will succumb to a fatal breakpoint and collapse.

J2020F: The four options for leaders to mobilize their employees, you’ve said are resistance, revitalization, renewal or restructuring.

TB: That’s right, with the four leadership styles: Committee, Cultural, Collaboration, and Commander.

J2020F: And, in this case, we’ll discuss resistance with the management-by-committee.

TB: Remember, this is the time when strong change forces decline. Resistance means two things. The organization resists internal changes, while it focuses on other means to repel external threats from new competitors.

J2020F: Basically, status quo advocates in the organization dominate, so no change is likely with old game approaches.

TB: True, but when it’s clear that they have to play the new game they’re forced to lower their resistance in order to adapt.

J2020F: You’ve said if they can recognize the errors of their ways in time, then they pass through a turning point that allows them to take advantage of the change forces as the change forces pick up in strength.

TB: Yes, that’s right. When assessing the kind of resistance you're facing, it is important to keep in mind that its strength is the extent to which it prevents the industry, company, or business unit from adapting to the forces of change.

J2020F: You also said last time that some forces of resistance can be more readily realigned with the forces of change once the latter build up

TB: Yes, and others yield less easily and can only be realigned gradually over time.

J2020F: What are the main types of resistance, then?

TB: Closed attitudes offer the least resistance. An entrenched culture offers more resistance. Then rigid structures and systems present more push back. Finally, counterproductive change dynamics produce the most resistance. Choosing the wrong leadership intervention, for example.

J2020F: Leadership by committee is needed for old game strategies, because of the high degree of resistance?

TB: That’s right. With a closed attitude towards change prevalent in the organization, the committee executives have to sell their decisions to the rest of the organization and then implement them in their respective business areas.

J2020F: I understand that the committee and collaborative styles are more versatile and more frequently found in a variety of settings.

TB: Yes. Ideally, the committee style is more suited to a path of resistance, whereas the collaborative style is more suited to renewal.

J2020F: Why?

TB: Both address the situation of a strong, but declining change force. The committee style is well suited to an intervention path of either resistance or focused renewal.

J2020F: Is it because the pace and scope of the change process that strong forces demand requires the organization be overhauled despite heavy resistance?

TB: Yes. In this case a team comprising the chief executive and key division and staff executives hammers out the intervention path and competitive formula with appropriate organization and systems.

J2020F: So, each executive provides input about where the company should go from their perspective?

TB: As you can imagine, intensive discussions follow until a consensus is reached.

J2020F: How many people from the organization get to participate?

TB: The number of people involved outside the committee is limited until they achieve buy-in from each executive team member.

J2020F: But, they can’t change the organization by themselves if they are forced to adopt the new game competitive strategy.

TB: True. The committee executives have to sell their decisions to the rest of the organization and then implement them in their respective business areas.

J2020F: What happens if the recommendations of a committee aren’t radical enough – if the competitive threat forces a new game strategy instead?

TB: From the inside, typically the committee can’t summon the collective power to overcome heavy resistance, in time.

J2020F: Can you give us an example?

TB: Sure. Here’s a classic example. Paul Sebel described the response of IBM's Central Management Committee (CMC) to the emergence of the Apple computer.

J2020F: Weren’t they successful with the IBM PC?

TB: Initially, they were. Task forces with free access to all necessary resources and reporting directly to the CMC were set up to develop and put an IBM personal computer onto the market as soon as possible.

J2020F: Were they slow to the market? What went wrong?

TB: Now. Within 18 months, the IBM PC was launched and, shortly thereafter, it became the new market standard. But IBM as a company did not really change.

J2020F: So they won the battle, but lost the war?

TB: In a way. The PC was developed and launched outside the corporate mainstream. The company as a whole remained committed mainly to large stand-alone computers.

J2020F: What kept it from committing to the PC?

TB: Its powerful marketing was driven more by what IBM believed its customers needed, rather than a real understanding of what they wanted.

J2020F: So they were victims of their own press?

TB: As a result, the company did not fully appreciate the strength of the move toward distributed computer networking in the mid-1980s, nor was it able to follow up adequately on the success of the first PCs.

J2020F: So they misjudged the change force represented by Apple?

TB: And they misunderstood that moving to a new game strategy forced them to abandon their management style.

J2020F: What happened internally?

TB: Strebel says, in the early 1990s, John Akers, the IBM president, in an unprecedented attempt to shake up the organization, went public with his frustration over the slow response of the company-wide committee structure to the forces of change.

J2020F: So, they failed to anticipate the correct response, and then implement it internally?

TB: Yes. Strebel says, as the industry went into a slump and profits dropped sharply for the first time in many years, IBM was no longer in the steady state environment of continuing large computer growth that had been so well managed by the committee system.

J2020F: How does revitalization differ from the resistance intervention?

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