One of the trite subjects for a business article or speech is the matter of change. You've heard it a thousand times. "The only certainty today is change ... You must learn to cope with change ... The top manager learns to create change and not merely react to it ... We've gotta change just to keep even and change fast to get ahead."
CEOs of American companies--and particularly new CEOs--have taken this gospel to heart. With bewildering speed they change people, organization structures, strategic directions, incentive plans, computer systems, pricing policies, headquarters location, service agencies, and even the company name. As that great old song went, "There'll even be a change in me.!"
Bless my soul, I'm not against change. Far from it; I am a disciple of calculated, conscious, controlled, coordinated change. I am opposed, however, to knee-jerk change without full tailoring to your company and circumstances, and to "Steinbrenner" change, which blames scapegoats as opposed to fixing the system.
In this frenzy to change, there are places where I think CEOs too often move too fast or too frequently. Let's round up three of the usual suspects.
THE TOO-OFTEN REORGANIZATION
Here we go again. From a decentralized to a centralized structure. From a chairman's office to a vertical hierarchy. From a pyramid to a flattened roof. From a full corporate staff to a lean, mean do-without approach. And then, as soon as a couple of quarters go awry, a switch back in the other direction.
Such organizational change means getting used to new bosses, to new people in new jobs, to new ways of getting things done. The stress on senior managers is often unbearable and high turnover results. The stress on middle managers, if they survive, is equally severe and efficiency suffers.
The CEO is pleased as punch because he has shown himself to be a man of action and there is a created illusion of hustle and bustle around. The management consultants, the outplacement concerns, and the executive recruiters are thrilled. Meanwhile, the people suffer.
THE TOO-FAST LATERAL TRANSFER
Like doting parents, many companies spoil those whom they hold in highest regard. The fine young product manager, plant head, profit center supervisor, or international trainee is rarely given more than two or three years in his or her job before being uprooted and sent off to have another broadening experience. It is usually too soon to find out whether the moves they made and the actions...