Corporate Superman - The Blue Caped CEO
by Tom FitzGerald

The time is now. The need for rapid response has never been so great. That will be true tomorrow too - but more so. In fact, faced with warp speed change, what seems required is not just quick response but some kind of preternatural agility.

But change comes slow and hard for people, people being people. And change comes slow and hard for companies too, large or small.

And though the urgent need for change is writ screaming large upon each wall and every corporate heart, corporate change is no easier now than before. People being people. CEOs being people too.

For companies are people, or at least have personhood with all the complexity, ambiguity, history and inertia that that implies. But, while it is difficult and hard, sometimes impossible, for individuals to change, companies are not so stuck. They can change far quicker, far easier. If they know how.

And a process, old as man, is there to do it.

It is a process that all great leaders have always known. Call it corporate renewal. Or call it preemptive turnaround. It is really deeper than words. And any managing officer can use it. Charisma not required.

And the senior managers, who are blamed for all, do not have to be fired to cause that change; though that sometimes works. Nor do they have to transform themselves to that urgent caricature of demon leader: The Blue Caped CEO.

But how can this be done by mortal men or mortal women in human firms? Whose arteries have hardened just a bit and whose joints are stiff?

There is great hope: the interlocking of personality traits is far looser in companies than in people. Memory too is shorter; on that we need not always say "alas."

There are just three concepts to remember and they are simple:

  An organization is a living entity.
The company has a soul.
The soul resides in the relationships between the senior managers, expressed through the management teams.

It all comes down to changing these relationships. When they are changed the soul is changed. When the soul is changed the company is changed. When the company is changed its performance is changed. And the behavior of its people.

Under the right circumstances, it is very easy to change relationships. There are just five steps to take and they take no time from a manager's day.

1) Call the management team together; those who are, or ought to be, the soul of the company. And create a safe place for that soul to hear and be heard.

2) Cause the managers to identify, as a group (the soul) and individually, the real issues, the drives and motivators of the organization, particularly the GUT issues that suck the life energies from within.

3) Create a catharsis on each issue. Have them feel and express, as a team, a revulsion at each issue. Individually too.

4) Immediately on the moment of catharsis, cause the energies to be transferred to, and invested in, their vision of the future, cathexis. In this discontinuity of catharsis/cathexis, relationships change. For the better. It happens quite naturally in the transfer of energy. No special skill is needed.

5) And take action immediately. Action is the affirmation and cement of new relationships.

In many ways these five steps are the essence of management and should be done and must be done in any case. It is only the spirit in which they are taken, and the intent with which they're done, that makes the difference.

This process works. It has always worked. Just use it once, for one time change. Or use it every week or every month for constant adaptation.

All that is needed for it to work, is a CEO who sees his company as a living, breathing entity and who wants it to adapt. And who has the will to make his managers look deep into its soul and their hearts and not flinch away.

Tom FitzGerald is a bottom-line oriented, consulting management engineer, who specializes in effecting major improvements in profitability, performance and growth. He has worked with CEOs and COOs of more than 200 organizations in the US, Canada and Europe, ranging in size from start-up to Fortune Five Hundred. By education, a physicist. By birth, Irish. By instinct and experience, a business catalyst. He has been president of FitzGerald Associates since 1976.

More like this in Leading Change in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 1999 - 2001 by Tom FitzGerald. All rights reserved.

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