“Changes are standard in all organisations. But it is also standard that people spend a lot more time thinking up new reforms, strategies and visions than on implementing them. And that is a massive management problem.”
As Associate Professor at the Department of Organisation at CBS, Susanne Boch Waldorff states. In her research, she has uncovered recurring challenges in management. But she also has suggestions for what management should be aware of.
- The basic taken-for-granted structures that obstruct changes must be challenged
- Management must reflect on their own behaviour
- Employees’ competences must be reconsidered – and new competences must come into play
- No dictates from the top. Employees must define new assignments
These are Waldorff’s four, research-based pieces of advice for leaders who have to roll out a new strategy or implement other big changes within their organisation – and who wish to make sure the targets are reached.
STRUCTURES MUST BE CHALLENGED
Susanne Boch Waldorff’s research across sectors, including the police, healthcare and social services, show that generally speaking, leaders are focused on staging new initiatives, while forgetting that there is already an organisation in place, which is considered meaningful. Routines, practices and roles are weaved into one other and everybody contributes to the solving of assignments.
“Often, it is difficult to change an existing practice, because it is connected to other practices. And often, you will see leaders instigating changes in one area of the organisation – without even considering these links. Wanting to change one specific practice is fine. But, then, securing the connection to the surrounding systems becomes pivotal,” she says.
Waldorff emphasises that firstly, leaders must be aware of whether it is even possible to implement the desired changes in the already existing basic structures within the organisation.
“Will employee competences, procedures, incitement structures and IT systems support the changes you wish to implement? If this is not the case, you must challenge these structures. It can be a huge task, but there is no way around it.”
As an example, she mentions healthcare, where they aim to improve the quality for patients by creating more consistent treatment processes. This, however, is countered by the status quo: for example, that the various professions function as specialists within their own fields. And that the existing financial management system is based on a performance model where the goal is handling as many patients as possible. So, if the healthcare system wants to fulfil its aim, they will have to challenge these structures to a greater degree, Waldorff explains.