Executing Change – Challenges for Executives

Executing Change – Challenges for Executives


According to Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia, “Change Management is a process during which the changes of a system are implemented in a controlled manner by following a pre-defined framework/model with, to some extent, reasonable modification”.

Every word in the above definition are pretty clear and understandable until you reach the last line “with, to some extent, reasonable modification”. Now what’s the extent and how much modification is reasonable is the BIG question.

The challenge is not “Change”, but, “when to change”. When the times are good i.e. in an economic upswing executives “think” the organization does not have time to change and when times are bad, like the one we have today, the same executive “thinks” organization does not have money or investing money is a waste and so change not possible. At the end of the day the organization comes a full circle, without the “Change”

Ever since the industrial revolution, organizations and executives steering these organizations have, I am sure, applied and implemented “Change” using various models. Some of them have been successful, although for short time, some had no clue how to handle it and others just went off of the industrial radar without a blink.

So, what stops executives from “Changing”? Is it the nature of business? Or the executive himself. Organizations who have a “Differentiator” will win and live in the future and not the ones who chase or set “Benchmarks”.

This paper is an attempt to look at some questions that should be on the agenda for any management team that wants to not only improve its ability of executing change but also wants to change on a continual basis and in all types of situations.

Challenge 1

Overcome “Paradigm Pattern Paralysis (3P)”

The 3P syndrome, as we call it, is the biggest challenge faced by executives today. In short, Paradigm’s are set of filters in our mind which filter and interpret incoming data, the way we want it to. Pattern is the boundaries that we create based on that data. Now, if something does not fit into our boundaries, we tend to reject it immediately. Let’s try it, If I were to ask you, “How about eating a Square Water Melon” , what goes through your mind or what would you ask?

Well, to cut a long story short, most of you would think, Square Water Melon!! , What’s that? Or How’s that possible? That’s 3P at work. But the farmers in Japan thought otherwise and you can see the visual below, which breaks this 3P syndrome.

Some of the 3P questions that we have heard till now, while trying to implement Lean are:

  • Our business does not need it today
  • We are the leaders and we set the benchmarks
  • Nothing works here.
  • We do not have time?
  • We are in a cost cutting mode?

One thing to keep in mind is “Principles are universal, but Practices are not”. “Change is a principle”, how we embrace it will be the “Practice” So, we need to look for ways of “To make it happen” rather than looking for ways of “How it will nothappen”.

Challenge 2

Physical Barriers vis-à-vis Policy Barriers

While leading the change initiative, unavailability of a resource e.g. a desktop, might lead to delay in accruing the benefits of the change, a Physical Barrier. Such a barrier can be easily overcome by making a desktop available. The bigger challenge is the process of getting that desktop i.e. the procedures, approvals, form, L1 supplier etc, a Committee Approach and in-turn a Policy Barrier. So, all in all, putting a desktop is less than a 4 hour exercise, but actually happens in fortnight.

Leaders have to hit the latter really hard and ensure that it supports the change initiative and not otherwise. The success of any change initiative is driven by the policies that the organization forms.

Challenge 3

Understanding the” Change Equation”

Successful Change ** = Situation + Response

** Situation never really changes, but what can make

A change successful is the way we respond to it.


All change initiatives have the same equation but not everyone understands it and its phases. Every new model brings with it a new framework, and hence more confusion. Most of the organizations tend to forget the re-vitalize phase, which actually is very critical in continuing in this journey of Change.

The effort should be to increase the gap between the Execute phase and Re-vitalize phase, and more often than not it is achieved by breaking the Policy Barriers. What we need to understand is, though Buy-in and Push for Launch are very critical phases, but even more important is the bias for Execution.

Execution has both “success” and “failure” attached to it, what a leader needs to understand is, failures should not stop anyone from trying and implementing new ideas.

Organizations which accept failures have higher chances of succeeding in business.

Finally, leaders should track their Lean Success Cycle and should be able to judge the “dip” in their execution phase and start preparing for Re-vitalize phase. It’s not easy and that’s the reason it’s a challenge.

Our recommendation – “Have a improvement idea, however small, go ahead and implement it”.

Challenge 4

Making people understand how a Business Functions

In most of the organizations people work in silos i.e. in different departments and understand only their corner of business, which does not really help in improving business performance.

The fastest way to make people understand the business is the Organization’s Value Stream/s. whatever happens within the company is generally a part of the Value Stream.

Every business has two types of Value Streams. Main Value Streams, which generates revenue and typicallyhave external customers like Product Development, Product/Service delivery etc. and Secondary Value Streams, which although have internal customers arestill very critical and important e.g. Hiring, Purchasing, Billing etc

This exercise throws out your biggest bottlenecks and helps in discovering how business works. Research as well as our experience shows that more 70% of the time spent in a Value Stream is a Waste (in other words, Cost) from the customer’s perspective and adds no value to the product or service you provide.


These challenges, as mentioned in the paper, are by no means the only ones to be overcome for executing change. However, while working with different types of organization all across the globe we have found that these four challenges definitely stops organizations from anticipating change

To embark on this journey called “Change” the best time is today, right now. You don’t have to wait for a recession or a downturn to make you realize that “Change” is required.

Change is about challenging the status quo every moment, every day. The more we do it the better we get at it. So, our recommendation – “Learn by doing and Change by challenging”

Here’s wishing you all the best.


  • Big ideas to big results – Robert Miles
  • Extreme Toyota by Shimizu
  • Blue Ocean Strategy
  • The Black Swan – Nicholas Taleb
  • How the Paper Fish Learned to Swim – Flaum

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