As helpful as organizational programs, techniques, and consistent strategic priorities are to turning vision into action, there is one essential ingredient to meaningful cultural change – a personal change of heart and mind. We call it metanoia.
In this series of posts, we’re looking at the 7 marks of the essential experience of metanoia outlined in the 7 Essentials for Culture Change. In this installment, we’ll look at the 5th mark: metanoia grows connections to others.
To read Part I, click here.
In many respects, the invitation to meet with the business transformation team was a remarkable turn of events that Sally found both perplexing and of immense relief. As chief engineer of a small “skunk works” project, she was quite used to being ignored. Sally had become accustomed to receiving corporate attention only in the form of budget cuts and more vigorous efforts to cancel the project that had become her life’s work. She had never planned it that way. It just happened. And, what had also become increasingly clear to Sally was that the small, committed and talented crew that had assembled around the task of developing this product they all believed in had become more like family than simply co-laborers.
Sally hung up the phone, and, it felt to her at least, began to lift her jaw off the floor, where it had landed thanks to the invitation she had just received from Andrew Hamer, one of the company’s senior leaders. She wondered who on her team she should reach out to and share the news with first. Should it be the chief designer, Jon, or the lead project manager, Maria? Perhaps the resident optimist, Carlos?
Based on the extensive market testing they had done, Sally and her team had been convinced for some time that they were building a winner. Yet from all other areas of the company, the resistance, and even resentment seemed only to intensify. This was likely in part because the product they were building represented a significant threat to cannibalize market share from the core product that had for several generations brought tidy, almost monopolistic returns to the company’s shareholders.
Over the past few years, as her team had encountered a veritable tsunami of opposition, they had grown weary of offers from elsewhere in the organization to “help” with their project. Involvement from outside of their team usually seemed to produce more resistance and obstacles than real assistance. Sally knew she was not the only member of the team who felt that they somehow needed to bypass the senior management in their line of business, because the launch of their product almost assured negative impact on short-term sales of the other core products in the unit.
Sally, and indeed the whole team, had begun to act as a protective unit not just for the product they all believed in, but for one another, too. The running joke amongst them was that the existing product set had begun to feel like a garden at the tail end of its season, and they were protecting and stewarding the one sprout that held promise for next season. What remained unspoken was the fact that each of their own “next seasons” would be intricately tied together. Without the risk, they were each choosing to accept and the contribution they each needed to make, their project, and likely their career prospects with it, would be relegated to the compost pile of corporate history.
Sally was cautious because she was deeply committed to her team and to a product insight that just wouldn’t let go of any of them. They also knew that the market window would not stay open indefinitely, and so as each day passed, there was mounting pressure to succeed.
Now, Andrew, one of the few senior leaders who had expressed some belief in the potential of their product, was inviting their little project to sit at the heart of a wider effort to re-think the way the business would be run and managed. Andrew and his team’s work was sponsored from the top and offered the kind of support and executive encouragement for which Sally had hardly dared to dream. It was a breathtaking opportunity, and yet the notoriety it would bring could also spell instantaneous collapse for her team and the product if anything went sideways.
Sally knew she would need to respond to Andrew’s invitation in a few days at most. It was a most tempting offer after such a long time of discouragement.
“Perhaps this is the sliver of daylight we’ve needed, but feared would never arrive,” she thought to herself. But experience also told her to beware of this kind of intervention from the upper levels because it could crush the product and her excellent team in a heartbeat. Sally knew that the opportunity and the way the team would respond was a choice that would define people’s careers—people she knew well and cared deeply about—like Jon, Maria, and Carlos. She knew that they, and the rest of the team with them, would have to live with the consequences of this choice for a long time to come.
For other posts in the Telosity series, click here.