The knowing-doing gap: Part 3

Here is the final part of our series about how companies commanding the high ground lift their cultures to leverage their strategy and structure.

Part one explored a dramatic instance of the knowing-doing gap; the failure of the Catholic Church to exorcise its own demons, instead plying the gap between knowing what’s right and doing what’s wrong. Fortunately the sins and suffering once forever hidden can now be exorcised in the courts.

In part two we shared five things that Megan and Potter (our resident critic and optimist) learnt from cultural transformation “masters” Maggie Loughrey and Mike Allen about breaking up and out from endless Ground Hog Day “awakenings” to the high ground of high performance cultures – closing the “what’s best” KD gap. So here are the final five.

6.  Fear always drives “ground hogs” further underground

Some leaders use fear to drive productivity. We’ve been told “they need to know that they are being held accountable and what will happen if they mess up”. With no appreciation of the monkey/ladder/banana experiment some seriously committed leaders can screw down productivity for years. The belief that a bit of fear is a good thing is a myth that trips clumsy leaders into the truly “grounded hog” belief that what they are doing is good practice.

7.  Peg the high ground at the beginning

Agreeing on the results and the evidence of the results is a vital part of the contracting stage of assignments. Allen: “We find that this step is almost always missing from previous change attempts.”

8.   There are fast ways to find the hog tracks

Good cultural assessment tools speed up the breakout process and set the direction. Loughrey: “It’s about selecting suitable diagnostics to understand the nature of the terrain before you commit to strategy and action”. When culture is the challenge the diagnostic process itself starts the process. The danger is that as tool vendors strive to make their tools fast and friendly they can dumb them down and give inexperienced users a false sense of capability.

Allen: “We use a tool in order to have a structured strategic conversation about where to build capability. We use tools as tools not as ‘silver bullets’ or panaceas. The ‘how’ of building productivity comes with a partnership between the leader and the players to design a roadmap.”

9. Early wins energise players for the long haul

Cultural transformation doesn’t take very long when everyone is committed to working in a healthy productive environment. Early success is essential because it energises participants, confronts the naysayers and calms the nerves of leaders who live and die by stock price flutters.

Loughrey: “Depending on the size of an organisation or team cultural transformation will display desired results in six to nine months. A large Australian energy company started a major process over four years ago. It was a top down cascade from the leadership team to the management team to levels below, focused from the beginning on strengthening a customer focused and inclusive culture. They developed a cultural plan which provided everyone with clearly identified achievements. It resulted in a period of industrial harmony and increased productivity.

Allen: “Changing one’s cultural imprint is not a skills issue, it is about capability and that is an organic process. Success follows consistent application; not fad surfing.”

10. Everyone loves the high ground once they get there

Loughrey: “A large engineering firm was running $3 million over budget just four months into a two year contract. The project team talked about ‘working together’ but in reality they lived in silos of blame, information hoarding and administrative overloads – trying to fix the problem through higher levels of bureaucracy. We worked with them for four days over six weeks and helped them to set themselves up as a high performing team with the goal of bringing the project back into budget. In six months they had achieved that, built great relations with each other and positioned for success with future contracts.

Our optimist Potter; stretching the meaning of Einstein’s words “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler” assembled this fast five point knowing-doing checklist.

What’s the gap in your company? Score two points for “disagree”, one point for “not sure”, and no points for “agree”.

In my company:

Talk (excuses, rationalisations) delays action.
Fear prevents action.
Habit smothers effective action.
Poor measures lead to ineffective action.
Internal rivalry prevents collaborative action.

Making sense of your score:

?9 = Hogging the high ground. 
8 = On the slope near the high ground.
7 = Break-out and up with ease. 
6-5 = Ground hog daze indicated.  
4 = Ground hog daze confirmed.
3 = Ground hog daze truly soporific.
? 2 = Ground hogs in seriously deep hibernation.

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