It's easy to get caught in a rut - the greater the risk or threat of change, the taller the walls become, the harder it is to accept new things, and worst of all, the less aware you are of your self-imposed exile.
When change occurs in a team, or they are asked to rethink their business given new market conditions, rutted people will produce a PowerPoint presentation that references new market research, extensive analysis of Twitter feeds, and select customer quotes that proving that strategy X is exactly what's needed to achieve success.
X is of course the current mission restated with a new team name, new logo, renamed programs, and one or two tweaks that come with incremental budget requests - PowerPoint lipstick on the status quo pig. They will also revamp their "scorecard" with additional rows to reflect the tweaks, and of course the team leader will require a business manager to manage the growing "burden" of command.
Does this sound familiar? Have you looked back after a couple of years of genuinely hard work to see what was really accomplished? There will have been a TON of "busy" results that can be documented in scorecards and spreadsheets (thanks to the now entrenched business manager), but how have you helped the business?
In consulting with organizations, the first question I ask is, "What is your why?" Once we are clear on why you exist, figuring out how you will get there and what you will do are easy. This is a difficult discussion because even CEOs are in a rut of busy work that is assumed to be of value, but rarely mapped back to the why. I wrote a few weeks ago about an organization I knew with ~90,000 employees, and my belief that they could achieve the same results with 30,000 people. One reason is this organization has misplaced its why; there are many brilliant people who are accomplishing amazing things that have little or no contribution to the business and have nothing to do with their why. In fact, I bet fewer than 30,000 could accurately state their why.
The reason clients resist the why discussion is because it leads to evaluating every investment (the whats) vis-à-vis its contribution to why. Many of the investments were created for good reason, but do those reasons exist today? If the what is still meaningful, then its contribution to why must be clear; if it isn't, then why are we still doing it?
Whenever something new comes along (especially in large organizations), if there is an openness to try it, it will never come at the expense of something old. "Without incremental resources or funds, fugedaboutit!"
What just happened? The organization chose NOT to make a difficult decision. "This new what is great, it can and will help us achieve our why. Which of our current what(s) should we kill to do this?" The text in red creates tension, angst, the killing of sacred cows, and a lot of hand wringing and unhappiness, and that is always difficult.
The reason organizations fall into ruts, the greatest impediment to good business is an inability and unwillingness to confront every (existing and new) what with why? Rationalizing ruts is easy; making difficult trade-offs is not. The more you rationalize, the more ingrained your siege mentality; this mistrust makes you think you can't be dependent on "them," thus justifying redundant what's in your portfolio. This balloons rapidly - contributing to the 60,000 excess employees in the example above.
Leadership is not just about the salary, stock options and the big office. If you can't make tough decisions, you are not a leader; the skill to kill investments that don't contribute enough to the why is a fundamental criterion of leadership.