Douglas Ready knows a lot about leadership. The MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on strategic talent management and executive development and has been named multiple times to Thinkers50, the premier ranking of the world’s top thought leaders. Ready, who is also Founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research, is a prolific writer on enterprise leadership and implementing strategic and cultural change; his articles have set the agenda for talent, leadership, and strategic change over the last two decades. And he is an active advisor to CEOs and top executive teams around the world.
So, when Ready shares strategic insights, people listen. Much of his writings and teachings of late are focused on implementing enterprise-wide transformation, because research is proving that the majority of these efforts fail to reach their intended objectives. Why is that?
According to Ready, when challenges to transformation persist it is often because there are embedded tensions or paradoxes that surface that seem unresolvable. Ready calls out five embedded tensions that make the successful implementation of enterprise transformations persistently difficult.
1. Revitalization vs. Normalization: At the core of many transformation efforts is the desire to revitalize ways of thinking, behaving, and working. Unfortunately, change often snowballs into multiple change initiatives, and seldom are these initiatives coordinated or provided with sufficient context. Employees can easily become weary of change and yearn for some level of normalcy.
2. Globalization vs. Simplification: The complexities brought on by globalization are often in conflict with an organization’s need to make it simple for customers to do business with them.
Leaders struggle with creating organizational responses that address the need to master globalization while offering customers and employees optimal simplification at the same time.
3. Innovation vs. Regulation: Innovation is what stimulates the creation of new business models, products, services, and ways of working. And yet, so many organizations are struggling to operate in an increasingly crushing regulatory environment (particularly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis). Pursuing creative approaches to solving unmet customers’ needs can feel like a luxury to these companies.