What Executive Teams Can Learn from the New Prime Minister?

”There will be so many changes going on in high speed that it probably doesn’t make sense to focus on merging ministries.”

This is what the recently nominated Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä stated in the end of May. He wanted to underline – contrary to what he envisioned before the parliamentary elections – that no efforts will be put on re-organizing ministries, as there will be far more significant changes to be carried out: a handful of key change initiatives that aim to ”save” Finland from an economic disaster.

I got thrilled after hearing Sipilä’s comment. Not because I wouldn’t think that the government shouldn’t be streamlined, but because Sipilä seemed to have guts to prioritize. If the government employees used a significant slice of their bandwidth and energy on reshaping the organizations, this would inevitably cut the speed of the most important changes, or even jeopardize the implementation of the changes.

What the executive teams could learn from this in their decision-making?

At least one thing: All the important changes – despite being justified and needed – can’t be made happen at the same time. Prioritize. And yes, have guts to postpone or even cancel change programs or projects, if the implementation of the top-priority ones is compromised.

Decision-Making Requires Courage

Based on my experience, there are not so many business leaders that have the courage to make such decisions as Mr. Sipilä and his colleagues did. Instead of 3 to 5 top-priority programs – which can be called must-win battles, key strategic programs, or whatever – organizations tend to be carrying out dozens and dozens of changes at the same time: group-level strategic initiatives, business division-level programs, organizational streamlining, business system development projects – you name it.

“…Sipilä seemed to have guts to prioritize.”

Typically this is all very clear and straightforward to the top management, but the middle management is struggling. Or do they just simply pick the changes they like the most and forget about the mass of others. Why is that? It’s because they’ve got business to be done, and even though they would agree on the need to change the business, they are not able to lead several major changes at the same time without it impacting customer relationships, sales, and profitability.

What are the “ministry mergers" in your organization that prevent you from performing better in the future?