“That’s not how we do things here!”

Design and Leadership July 2016

KotterandRathgeber-book-coverAs a design professionals trying to bring about change at the business level within organisations, we are often met with resistance from senior management saying “that’s not how we do things here!”

Renowned change management gurus John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, have written an insightful and engaging book titled “That’s not how we do things here: A Story about How Organizations Rise and Fall – and Can Rise Again”. The book explores the distinct roles of management and leadership in the format of a fable about a colony of meerkats living in the Kalahari Desert and their struggles to respond to rapid and unprecedented change in their environment. The book compares the successes and failures of a large, disciplined and well managed clan with a small, informal and inspiring clan and presents ways to get the best of both worlds.

Kotter and Rathgeber confirm what many design professionals already know, and that is the importance of having strong visible leaders. While leaders may come from management, increasingly they may also come from any level within an organisation. The value of leaders lies in their ability to establish a clear directional vision and their ability to inspire, motivate and mobilise other people to see opportunities, overcome barriers and quickly innovative in response to change. In contrast, management is about getting stuff done in the most efficient and effective way possible through planning, organising, executing, measuring and monitoring activities to reliably deliver outcomes. In today’s rapidly changing world, both leadership and management are necessary to achieve sustainable business growth and ongoing success.

Designers often find themselves in leadership roles as our skills and training enable us to envision future possibilities and present them in a way that inspires and excites people. However we need to more effectively combine our leadership and visioning skills with a management framework.

Kotter and Rathgeber suggest that this can and is being achieved within organisations today. This is achieved by establishing a network of groups of passionate volunteers from across business units to address identified opportunities with a level of urgency. These groups develop and implement initiatives that move towards the vision and take advantage of opportunities. There is relentless communication about the initiatives with senior management, within the group of volunteers and with other prospective volunteers to celebrate successes, gain support and maintain momentum. The more “wins” no matter how small, the sooner they come and the better they are celebrated and communicated, the better the overall outcome. Eventually the big wins are embedded within the organisation as new programs or business units once their success has been demonstrated and verified.

We at Scintilla look forward to working with in partnership with our clients in innovative new ways as suggested by thought leaders such as John Kotter to help deliver sustainable business growth and ongoing success.