There’s a common phrase that seems appropriate in setting the stage for this article, which is “good intentions; bad results.”
Despite our best efforts, many well-intentioned initiatives often become flavors of the month. Perhaps at some point in your career you, too, were convinced that a particular initiative would not become the latest flavor of the month. Unfortunately, it did. Fortunately, while we cannot change the past, we can learn from it and do things differently in the future.
There are many reasons that well-intended strategic initiatives become flavors of the month, and we’ll explore some of more common causes in this article. But before we proceed, it’s important to recognize that far too many of these “flavorful” initiatives are later rationalized and written off as learning experiences. An experience without learning suggests that nothing will change. And if nothing changes, the potential for more flavors of the month is greater.
Perhaps it would be wise to consider a more proactive approach by performing a post-mortem evaluation and identifying some of the more common characteristics of flavors of the month in your organization. You could then compare these characteristics against those of more successful initiatives that have been sustained and achieved the desired results.
Let’s assume that flavors of the months are “events,” and successful initiatives that were sustained and achieved desired results are “processes.” Further, let’s define events and processes as follows:
Event — An occurrence, usually of short duration;
a final result or outcome
Process — An orderly or established series of steps
or operations leading to a desired result or outcome; a natural
action or function marked by gradual change from one state to
another, sustainable over time, capable of duplication, and scalable
There are several reasons why good intentions become flavors of the month:
- Resource and time constraints often impede planning and execution.
- The organizational culture and its leaders are tolerant of “Doing
the best we could” as an acceptable explanation for failed
- Priorities compete for attention and shortcuts are taken with
little or no consideration for the consequences.
- Key stakeholders are not involved in the planning process; i.e.
no involvement, no commitment.
- Lack of clear and consistent communications at all levels.
In contrast, it is more likely for a process initiative to succeed and be sustained if the following leadership actions are taken:
- Clearly defined outcomes including purpose linked to business
- Sponsorship is established with key stakeholders, and senior
management becomes an advocate for the process.
- The question “What’s in for me?” is answered up front
for all levels of the organization. This is essential for sustaining
change and achieving desired results.
- Those responsible for implementing the process are seen as credible
and trustworthy within the organization.
- The benefits of the initiative are clearly articulated in simple
terms that are easy to understand.
Exemplary leaders ensure that key business initiatives do not become flavors of the months. Failed initiatives can have dramatic impact on the business as well as negative consequences for the individual leader. It is therefore wise to align “good intentions” with the appropriate actions to maximize the probability of leading successful initiatives and achieving desired results.