Taking The Hedgerows Out

Monday, July 12, 2010
Hedgerows, remember, almost undid D-Day.

When the Allied Forces began their march through France they encountered the unanticipated obstacle of these ancient boundary markers - tall berms of earth topped with thick hedges, often surrounded by trench like roads.

They had been there since the Roman Empire, which was why they were taken for granted.

Leaders face hedgerows as well - entrenched parts of the culture that are resistant to change. How do you get around them?

First, don't deny that they are there. They won't go away, they have to be confronted, and the first job of a leader is to define reality. So, name them, talk about them, own them.

Second, talk about why they are a problem. Once Eisenhower realized that the hedgerows were a threat to the invasion he convened his best and brightest tacticians to find ways around the problem.

Third, determine that they must go. Features of organizational DNA and faulty practices may have been there since the Roman Empire or, say 2005, but they cannot be allowed to derail the organization's mission and vision. A leader determined to uproot hedgerows will take some hits, but that's part of the game.

Fourth, assemble a guiding coalition to take out the hedgerows. If you have done the hard work of steps two and three you will have momentum within the organization (or family) to take out the hedgerows. The coalition has to be built around shared values and commitment to change if it is to succeed.

Finally, be vigilant to be sure that today's innovations don't become tomorrow's hedgerows!

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