The difference between book clubs and organizational change


Driving organizational change is really hard. Changing the culture, moving everyone in a different direction, driving and enabling a consistent means of decision-making and prioritization – these take time, and they take far more than a quarterly focus.

Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned companies and executives expect fundamental change to be that easy. If you decide, for example, to make customer satisfaction your Q3 focus area, you probably fall into this camp.

Customer satisfaction isn’t a quarterly focus area. It isn’t a temporary objective. When executed correctly, it’s an inherent strength and core competency for the entire organization. Managers hire for it. Executives are rewarded and bonused based on it. It’s part of the DNA.

But you have to start somewhere. Just like a good sales process, the first step is often discovery and education. You don’t start with changing actions. You start with changing mindsets.  Challenging how people think. This can come by reviewing how other organizations have not only implemented change, but why they did it and what the results were.

So change starts with education, but it can’t stop there. You can get your entire management team to read the latest book on customer success, performance management, topgrading, whatever. But if a few people read the book and keep doing what they were doing before, you haven’t created or even instigated change. You’ve just created a nice company book club.

A friend told me recently about a division-wide effort at an enterprise company he worked at, to get everyone to read the same book. They had scheduled, organized book club meetings internally over lunch to talk about what they read. Everyone got excited. This was going to change how they did business!

But then everyone went back to their desks, their fire drills, their existing culture and expectations and politics. In the end, the book-reading effort served more to point out the difference between where they wanted to be, where they were, and unlikely the organization was to really change. Good intentions weren’t backed up with execution.

Book clubs are great, but what are you going to do when everyone’s done reading?