Leadership Follies: What’s the Point of Half a Face Lift?

Face Lift

Executing big change-management projects within organizations is somewhat like performing major surgery on human patients.

These are not just single, static events performed within a vacuum…

They are actually a symphony of intricate processes that must be performed in sequence in order to achieve the desired outcome of healing a sick organism.

Trending Outcomes

As a consultant, I have noticed a trend in many organizations that are going through big organizational change. Often times, there is great interest in putting together a comprehensive solution that includes these elements:

  1. Altering the structure of an organization
  2. Putting in new processes
  3. Establishing new ways of interacting together as a team or between departments (normally known as the three components to organizational change)

Only Going Part-Way

More often than not, what ends up happening is the organization only has the “stomach” for the first part of the change. It as if they believe that by just doing a restructuring of the organization that somehow magically all problems will be solved.
Unfortunately this is the equivalent of just getting half a facelift.

Of course, getting half of the facelift  is ridiculous. It makes no sense. Yet, the equivalent to this phenomenon occurs regularly in organizations.

Glory Daze

Taking on a long-term effort to transform or alter how the organization operates, only to stop after the first step.  Some people call it “change fatigue.”  William Bridges called it “the Neutral Zone.”

I call it “Glory Days Syndrome.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “glory days,” it is a term from a 1984 song, written and performed by American rock singer Bruce Springsteen, describing where people recount bygone days in an effort to gain satisfaction by recounting and reminiscing their “glorious” past when they were “someone” or “popular” in the highlight of their lives lived during high school.

But in reality “real life” has passed them by. And all they have left is clinging on to their fond past.

People who work in organizations do the same thing.  They remember when the company was smaller; or more profitable; or easier to manage, etc.

Unfortunately, organizations rarely get back to those “glory days” without some effort and some pain.

3 Ways to Avoid Glory Days Syndrome

There are three ways to avoid this issue of driving forward while looking in the rear-view mirror:
  1. Make sure that you have a comprehensive plan for all three components of an organizational change (there are great tools and checklists – here and here . Remember, planning is vital.
  2. Set aside the budget and resources to ensure that the change is going to take place in its entirety.
  3. If there is any inclination that not all three components of the organizational change can be filled, don’t start to change.

 That’s right, I said it: Don’t start the change!

The truth is that 70% of change efforts fail. It is better to look in other areas or figure out other ways to improve performance than to launch an organizational change that you’re only going to be able to do the first part.

There are thousands of small tweaks that can be found to make incremental changes.

Without completing all components of the change, organizational inertia will likely pull people and teams back to the way they used to act.

Don’t fall into the Organizational Helplessness trap of only finishing half your facelift because you are stuck in the “Glory Days.”
Commit to the change in its entirety or don’t do it at all, going half way could make it worse.
Have you encountered organizational changes that were only partially completed?  What were the results you encountered? I would be interested in hearing your stories and input!


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Anil Saxena
 is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | (847) 212-0701

Image Sources: fc02.deviantart.net

4 responses to “Leadership Follies: What’s the Point of Half a Face Lift?

  1. Anil, Great blog. I work in a large corporation where this happens very frequently. Most believe a reorganization is the answer and only thing needed. We rarely fund and resource the transformation to make sure it sticks upward, downward and sideways. I don’t know of many companies or organizations that aren’t going through some type of transformation effort due to the recession or to keep up with rapid changing techology innovations. Thanks for the 3 steps, invaluable!


    • Cheryl – Thanks so much for the comment. Change is never easy and yet necessary to be successful. Glad to hear the 3 steps are helpful!


  2. Pingback: Leadership updates for 03/24/2012·

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