The Cobbler's Kid

Barry Goldberg On Leadership

The Cobbler's Kid

Last month, after more than two years of delays, I changed my own company brand. After a decade and a half of a business that focused on large company leadership development programs and global work, I am now focused on work that I deliver personally. Most of that is through my CEO and key executive private peer advisory groups here in Little Rock. You will see a new and much simpler web presence at my new home on the web,

So why would something so simple and straightforward require two years?

This is an Opinion

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For more than a decade during the dot-com run-up, when CRM systems were coming of age, I had a global practice working with leaders and teams engaged in major organizational and process change. We worked with executive sponsors of major change initiatives, using a methodology that took an enterprise view of both delivery and risk management. Ironically, when I took on my own brand change project, even as a sole practitioner, I ran into the same issues as leaders of change in far more complex global enterprises.

While all project teams run into challenges getting an outcome delivered, the research — and my own recent experience — makes the failure of 75 percent of change projects all too clear. The reasons that change projects take too long, cost too much, do not deliver promised results or never get over the line point to failures in leadership far more often than failures in execution. So before you point a finger at the project team, have a look in the mirror for these leadership challenges:

Clearer on the problem than the desired outcome. I found myself doing exactly what many of my clients did back in my change leadership consulting days. What should have been a straightforward process became way too complicated because I was more focused on what did not work than on clarifying what I actually wanted. Each attempt to create a new, simplified brand met with the challenges of not first clarifying what the new brand should be, instead of what the old Entelechy Partners wasn’t. Often, the biggest issue in a change initiative is a focus on the problem rather than on the outcome.

Bandwidth. Delegation only works if the people you are delegating to have the time, the budgetary authority and the organizational leverage to deliver. While I had all the authority and organizational leverage I needed in my small company, I did not make time for either serious planning or execution. Not until I did a “data dump” with a trusted team and got off the critical path did any real work get done.

Overreach of scope. Most approval meetings I was ever in with clients were predictable. Those meetings may be the roots of what is now an old saw: “Cheap, Good, Fast. Pick two!” Like any other leader of change, I had to settle on what was most important, and what could wait. There will be a phase two to bring over my blog and other content, so the site is not robust, but I am now operating in the new domain. Is it perfect today? No, not at all. It is sufficient to represent what my small company is today. More to the point, it is in production and a foundation for the additional content that can be added without activities that interrupt day-to-day client delivery.

Right talent on — and off — the team. A successful project team of any size needs both people who can dive into and manage detail as well as those who can stay focused on the long-term vision and the external environment in which the project operates. Until I was willing to involve people who balance my natural systemic view, each attempt to deliver the project ran into a wall.

Courage to address what is in the way of success. In years of change leadership consulting, I learned that many of the challenges that were baked into the process had to do with executive sponsors. Too many changes, inability to let the team take charge, an ever-changing charter, budgetary changes and a flavor-of-the-month approach are all toxic to any change project and the team responsible to deliver it.

I. Barry Goldberg of Little Rock is a Vistage Peer Advisory Group Chair, executive coach, facilitator and leadership development consultant. Email him at