Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Leaders: Can You Transfer Success to a New Organization?

Glenn Llopsis has written an interesting column at Forbes.com.  The article is titled, "7 Reasons Leaders Can't Transfer their Success to Other Organizations."  I have always found this topic fascinating.  Why is it that highly effective leaders sometimes have trouble repeating their success at their next organizations?  First and foremost, I believe that we often over-attribute an organization's success to its chief executive.   We assume that he or she should receive most of the credit for the high performance, when in fact, others played a key role.  Perhaps even some good fortune played an important part in that success.  

Second, executives often try to take the processes and techniques that have made them successful and transplant them completely to their new organizations.  They forget that those practices must be adapted and tailored to the new industry, strategy, culture, and people.  In other words, there are very few "best practices" that can simply be dropped into any organization.  Practices must always be tailored to fit with the other systems, activities, and processes in place at the new organization.   Alignment or fit among processes and capabilities produces competitive advantage.  That's why tailoring matters so much! 

Executives encounter a problem though.  In the back of their minds, they often know that tailoring and adapting is necessary.  Yet, they have had such success with a particular "formula" that they are reluctant to change.  Chuck Knight, the former CEO of Emerson Electric, once visited my class a few years ago.  A student asked him if he would have taken the vaunted Emerson strategic planning process to Silicon Valley if he had taken on a CEO role at a firm there after he retired from Emerson.  He said that adopting the Emerson process there without significant adaptation would have been a big mistake, but he acknowledged that it would have been very tempting to rely on the winning formula from his past. 

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