Murky Waters: Why It’s Time to Rethink Everything

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” – Tony Robbins

Amazingly enough, I am now 20 years into my career…not sure how that happened, but new aches and pains, and a metabolism that simply *refuses* to function as it used to, offer proof that it’s true. Twenty years have passed since I set foot in my first “corner office”… the corner of a former conference room, that is, with wobbly divider walls and windows a mere three hallways, and four doorways, away.  

Back then, I was part of an innovative, cross-cutting organization – tasked to provide modeling and simulation support across the customer-facing enterprise.  It was an exciting time – the group was new, we were well resourced, we had the best people, the coolest toys, and *definitely* the best happy hours in the company.  And we struggled.  We struggled over things like organizational metrics and customer swimlanes.  We struggled to innovate in a stoic corporate culture.  We struggled to deploy our new technologies in a meaningful way.  In the end, our group was absorbed into the conventional organization… and I came away with a deeper understanding of the challenge of creating change.

Fast forward to today… twenty years later, I would hope to tell you that we’ve figured that stuff out.  I mean, here we are in 2017 – we have Facebook! We have crowd-sourcing! We have go-fund-me!  Surely, we can’t possibly be struggling with those same organizational challenges…  right??

And yet, we are. Everywhere! Ev-ery-where.  I have worked with and supported customers and organizations across the IC and DOD.  I have worked in large businesses of 100,000+ employees and small businesses of less than 100.  I have spent time with CEOs, senior intelligence staff, technology experts and procurement officials… and I consistently see and hear the same challenges.  We’re too stovepiped.  We’re too slow.  We’re inefficient.  We want to innovate, but we get in our own way.  

I am convinced that this is not a technology issue or a matter of traditional process-improvement.  Those things are valuable, but they operate on the periphery of the problem.  At its root, we are facing a challenge that is much more fundamental.  Our very organizational structures, operating models, and assumptions are no longer working.  Today’s operating environment is networked, adaptive, and decentralized… we can no longer approach it with top-down, hierarchical, structures and expect to be effective.  

It’s challenging to see this problem because, like fish in a tank, this is the very water we swim in. It takes a willingness to step outside our traditional thinking to see how our organizational water has become dark, murky, and stagnant.  It’s time to change the water.

The good news is, new models are beginning to emerge. There are “bright spots” we can look to for inspiration and ideas for how we can transform.  There are tools beginning to emerge that can assist with the transition into this new thinking. Fundamentally, all the raw material is here… we see the problem, we have a sense of the underlying issues, we have some idea of where to start.  The time is now.  We must think differently.  We must choose to change.  

After 20 years of observing, learning, contributing to, and leading, conventional organizations, I am ready to invent something different.  Eleccion is my choice to change.

Deanna Doan is an enabling partner and co-founder of Eleccion, a next-generation management consulting firm providing advisory services to private, public and non-profit clients.