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Complacency fueled by past success

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As Kotter explains in Leading Change, often a firm will develop a sense of well-being based on past successes. This leads people into complacency. Mr. Watson’s initiative was based on analysis and rational thinking. Sometimes, a crisis is needed to push complacency out of the way. Without a real or perceived crisis, complacency means that workers see no visible reason to change the status quo. (Kotter, 1996)

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The current environment at this firm is culturally and structurally in a status quo resistant to change. Culturally, managers and workers seem to have narrow goals based on the functionality of their business unit and do not have enterprise goals based on what is good for the company. Structurally, the narrow functional group goals lead to resistance and complacency when the line managers and power coalition were not involved in the necessary team effort. Change was perceived as an annoyance and an obstacle to business unit success. (Kotter, 2002)

Moreover, because the culture and structure focused on the unit level, company-wide performance standards did not support urgency in support of change initiative. As the questions came into Ted Watson, the complacency shown in performance standards based on the goals of the business unit. Operations were centered on how efficient the status quo made the unit without an alignment of the change effort to the rewards and objectives of the entire organization. (Kotter, 2002)

While the organization, at least at the executive committee and CEO, approved of the new idea, nowhere did this story show an understanding of external stakeholders. What did the customers think? What did the suppliers think? The change effort had no direct ties to the marketplace and the values and needs of external clients.

© Neal Huffman 2014 All rights reserved

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