MIT Senior Lecturer and management consultant Elsbeth Johnson has written an interesting article for Strategy+Business about why many strategic transformation efforts fail (though I'm not a fan of the article title). She argues that we often blame middle managers for resisting change efforts and putting up various obstacles. However, she finds fault with senior leaders when examining many failed organizational change initiatives. Johnson argues that leaders aren't focusing on the right type of work when launching transformation efforts. She argues that leaders jump into the planning and execution of activities too quickly, rather than stepping back and clearly articulating the desired outcomes first. She explains:
Johnson argues that leaders default to working on activities because that work is easier and more enjoyable for many individuals than clarifying priorities, persuading others to change, and motivating people to work toward ambitious new goals.
It may sound simple and obvious, but my experience does suggest that many organizations suffer from a lack of alignment regarding goals, priorities, and expectations. Leaders often overestimate how much alignment actually exists...and they overestimate by a wide margin in many instances.