Survival Guide For Management Initiatives

August 23, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

Your CEO has just announced a new management initiative. He just finished explaining his vision and strategy and how this initiative fills a critical gap. He said to expect sweeping changes as the company uses this initiative to become oh so close to your existing customers and to welcome hordes of new customers. Profits will soar — but you just need to implement this new initiative, and quickly, for time is wasting away.

It seems to you that you’ve heard this speech before. But when was it? Yes, you have it now. It was this same CEO only six months ago. It seemed to be almost word for word. What happened to the last one? Oh yeah, you’re still working on it; sixty hours a week with no end in sight. Your team has been reorganized three times already. You now report to your third manager now four more levels below the CEO. What are you going to do? You don’t even have time to freshen your resume.

First, be sure to show your support for the new initiative. A lack of enthusiasm will not do well for you. Ask probing questions of everyone; talk about how you support this new initiative. Keep it positive. Just don’t do anything. You know that you just need to keep your head down; then this too shall pass. You know the CEO will never actually get into the nuts and bolts of the company’s processes where real changes can be made.

Second, accept all assignments that come your way but don’t actually complete any. Don’t complain; resistance is futile. The CEO has never canceled an initiative so your job on the previous team is safe. When an assignment is about to be due, scurry around, look very busy, and delegate bits of the assignment to others. It will help to show how others are late; then it will not be your fault. Remember, you only have to survive a few months until everyone, including the CEO, loses interest and stops following up. If challenged for not completing your assignment, point to the others that you’re waiting for and emphasize how valuable you are to both the previous initiative and the current one. Emphasize that the previous project is so important and demanding at present; ask for a little patience right now. Remember, you cannot be seen to be stalling; the previous project is a great excuse.

Do these suggestions sound familiar? They should, as they happen all the time. The people who are actually needed for projects of this sort are always from the same group. They’re always overloaded. Executives and other managers seem to have Attention Deficit Disorder; they cannot focus on a project long enough and in depth enough to get real results. When all else fails, reorganize the organization chart. Reorganization can always be counted on to obscure responsibility.

As real as this sounds, there are several lessons to be gleaned from this survival guide, especially for executives. This is not to say that management initiatives are bad; only that they need to be more selective, pursued to completion, and with regard to the people actually impacted.

First. These survival tactics happen all the time. Plan ahead for them especially if you have been the one with Attention Deficit Disorder. If this is the case, your employees don’t trust you and will not buy into the new project.

Second. Either complete or formally cancel projects for other initiatives. It takes time to complete an initiative and for the organization to actually incorporate changes into processes and performance measures. It usually takes even more time to actually realize the benefits. If an initiative needs to be superseded, then cancel it. The people you need for the new initiative are the ones working on the previous one.

Third. Resist the urge to reorganize. Real changes do not come easily; Real root causes must be discovered and addressed. Shoving boxes around on the organization chart rarely addresses root causes or changes processes, or actually exhibits long term benefits.

Too many initiatives fail to deliver the benefits anticipated at their inception. Most often, this is not the fault of the initiative; it has worked for other companies. Real change comes by addressing details at the process level in the activities employees perform. These details are the root causes for waste, poor quality, long cycle time, and poor customer satisfaction. These changes take time and attention to real work going on in the organization. Your implementation team needs to focus; they’re your best people and the ones who best understand your business. Offload their other work and cancel other projects if you must. They need their full attention to the current task. They need focus. Who knows, they may even finish ahead of schedule with even better results.

Success with management initiatives requires upfront clarity and introspection. A little due diligence up front pays significant dividends down the road. For guidance, tips, and more resources, please come to

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