Basic Principles for Leading Change (Part 2)

From project and resource management to creating an operational system of record to training and morale issues, change is not typically well received. In fact, the status quo can be a company’s most profound challenge. For the services industry, where people are the product, the challenge becomes even greater when it comes to initiating an effective and positive transition. In the ebook Five Trends Shaping the Future of Services Delivery, the report opens with this statement: “Delivering services is no longer an educated estimate of resource planning, deadlines, and scalability. It is a science.” Even though that is true, the complications and obstacles that arise when facing change tend to be people issues and not just technology. That’s because Professional Services organizations not only sell knowledge, it’s how they differentiate from each other and it’s what determines their brand identity.

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The People as a Deterrent to Change Management

In part 1 of this article we learned that change management experts advise to “start with the culture.” The biggest reason is that without “buy-in” from everyone, change initiatives put a drag on systems and the psyches of the people responsible. Below are the top five obstacles for change management success, as reported in the article titled “Avoid These 5 Change Management Obstacles”:

  1. Lack of executive support and active sponsorship
  2. Inadequate change management buy-in and resourcing
  3. Resistance and lack of support for the specific solution
  4. Change-resistant culture and organizational structure
  5. Change saturation and lack of prioritization

My experience includes working exclusively with brands that are starting up, introducing a new brand or line extension, expanding to new markets, or developing a new strategy. I’ve seen all of the obstacles listed above, especially number 4. A change-resistant culture will only do what it wants to do. So when introducing a change or update in technology or processes, it’s best to devise a way to get your team to buy-in because they can perceive the advantages, not just because they are told. Usually it takes only asking questions of the team versus telling them.

Part II – Leading Change Management

In a previous blog, we pulled from an article published in Strategy and Business. Authors DeAnne Aquirre and Micah Alpern point to 10 classic principles that are time-honored techniques and tools that can help leaders transform their organizations quickly. The title is 10 Principles of Leading Change Management. We reviewed the first five in a previous blog. Here is the rest of the summary:

image1Here are the highlights of the remaining guiding principles for change that can help executives navigate the art of transformation in a systematic way:

6. Engage, engage, engage.

“Leaders often make the mistake of imagining that if they convey a strong message of change at the start of an initiative, people will understand what to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. Powerful and sustained change requires constant communication, not only throughout the rollout but after the major elements of the plan are in place.”

7. Lead outside the lines.

“Change has the best chance of cascading through an organization when everyone with authority and influence is involved. In addition to those who hold formal positions of power—the company’s recognized leaders—this group includes people whose power is more informal and is related to their expertise, to the breadth of their network, or to personal qualities that engender trust.
We call these informal leaders “special forces.” They can be found throughout any organization. There are three distinct kinds of informal leaders:

  • Pride builders are great at motivating others and inspiring them to take pride in their work. People influenced by them feel good about working for the organization and have a desire to go above and beyond.
  • Trusted nodes are go-to people. They are repositories of the organization’s culture. They are the ones approached by people who want to know what’s really happening in the organization.
  • Change or culture ambassadors know, as if by instinct, how to live the change the organization is making. They serve as both exemplars and communicators, spreading the word about why change is important.”
8. Leverage formal solutions.

“Persuading people to change their behavior won’t suffice for transformation unless formal elements—such as structure, reward systems, and ways of operating, training, and development—are redesigned to support them. Many companies fall short in this area.”

9. Leverage informal solutions.

“Even when the formal elements needed for change are present, the established culture can undermine them if people revert to long-held but unconscious ways of behaving. This relates to an earlier point regarding change resistant cultures. This is why formal and informal solutions must work together.”

10. Assess and adapt.

"The Strategy&/Katzenbach Center survey revealed that 'many organizations involved in transformation efforts fail to measure their success before moving on. Leaders are so eager to claim victory that they don’t take the time to find out what’s working and what’s not, and to adjust their next steps accordingly. And just as important is to celebrate the wins where change has had a positive impact, regardless of how big or small. To see success creates more inspiration and motivation.'"

When Change Works

Remember, in part 1 we discussed the amazing change brought about by Lou Gerstner at IBM. It wasn’t that long ago that most saw IBM as Big Blue with Big Blue machines. Those machines are gone and replaced with knowledge agents that use their expertise to help other organizations find their next level. It can be done. And it’s glorious when it happens.

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