Tenet #6: Empower decision making consistent with the vision.
As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” All too often leaders set themselves up to be the only decision maker for their change management projects. For well-intentioned reasons, leaders take on the mantle of ultimate judge for ideas and tactical implementation details of all kinds in a project. In fact, our new world of Sarbanes-Oxley accountability rules has made this situation worse, driving many leaders to pull back on delegation. The investment community and the law require a level of scrutiny and direct decision-making for accounting from our key leaders that have caused some to behave in a similar fashion nearly all decisions. The result in some firms has been that top management is now the bottleneck on many decisions.
Tenet #5: Over-communicate. Be consistent. Make it simple.
No matter how many times you think you have given the same message during a significant organizational change, give it again, and again, and again! Remember that while the future is crystal clear in your mind and in the mind of your guiding coalition, most of the organization is entrenched in their current paradigm. Even if you have given the single most eloquent speech of your life, once, the impact on the average worker has a short “half-life of decay”. As they walk out of your turning-point meeting and go back to their day jobs, the message is fading away with every step. The tyranny of the urgent takes over. Most of the people in your organization are worried about fulfilling the daily expectations of the firm using current processes, tools, roles and responsibilities. They are living in the present day, being mindful of what they must do to complete existing customer or administrative needs. What is to come, the vapor-ware you offer, the future you are presenting will be believed when it impacts them. But sooner or later it will impact them. You need to prepare them for that time. Give your message over and over again.
Tenet #4: Break it down into phases.
Your plans are grand. You can see the future and it’s bright for your organization. But it’s very different from what you see today. You know it will take a lot of work and dedication, but you are confident you can get there, and you are anxious to achieve these goals. You may even have significant pressure from your sponsors to reach new heights, and to reach them fast. You are charged up and motivated, and if you have done your job right, you also have a highly motivated and cognizant guiding coalition, as discussed in Tenet #3. Your people are behind you 100%.
So why do they seem so worried? Why are they groaning at the thought of all of the hard work?
Tenet #3: Create a guiding coalition.
Even the most capable of leaders seldom achieve significant goals alone. No matter how bright our ideas, those ideas fall flat without a group of people to help implement them. Leaders drive change through other people and, for many of the leaders reading this tenet, change is driven through other leaders. Along with the first two tenets (“Fully understand and respect the current situation first” and “Learn together why change is necessary”) leaders need to enlist the help of influential and respected people that will refine, guide and execute the plan. A leader banging the cadence drum alone, without the clear support and involvement of other key personnel from around the organization will lose impact, sounding detached from the reality of day-to-day business. A leader driving change must gather and charter a powerful guiding coalition. A properly selected group will add vitality and validity, and extend the reach of the leader into all corners of the organization. Depending on the size of your organization, this may or may not be the same group of people who have jointly diagnosed the issues with you.
Reference: Please see the Introduction and Tenet #1 here.
Tenet #2: Learn together why change is necessary.
If you are brought in to be a change agent in a new company or a new job within the same company, the chances are good that you are not well-known by the new people with whom you work. You have not yet earned their trust, but they will follow you because you have the position power. The CEO disease starts right away, on day one, as you receive positive feedback from your teams even while they question your wisdom, your capability, and your right to be in your position. In this circumstance, going off into a dark room alone or with a single chosen confidant to analyze the organization’s problem and to come out with a set of stone tablets in proclamation of a new vision will not engender a strong followership. It is often a mistake to hide your decision-making process when it requires others to implement it. But in this case, it could spell the difference between success and failure in your change management process.
During this time of economic uncertainty and the likely increase of tax and expense burden on businesses mandated by changes in law, executives are seeking even greater productivity from the workforce in order to maintain bottom-line profitability or even survival. There is a generations-long history of companies achieving progressively greater productivity. Nevertheless, business leaders are seeking new ways to continue this trend.
Many writers have described a wide variety of ways to squeeze the nth degree of output from individuals of all job descriptions. A range of consultants will happily charge tidy sums for 1-day or 2-day workshops on the subject. There is another way, one that costs very little, if anything, and enjoys a high payback. The prerequisite is that an executive needs confident and effective managers and leaders to realize this productivity increase.
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher from the 4th century BCE was known for his doctrine of change. He taught that change was central to the universe. In “Lives of the Philosophers” by Diogenes Laertius, Heraclitus is quoted as saying “There is nothing permanent except change.” Change is not only a fact of business; it’s a fact of life. But it undervalues change to say that it is just a necessary evil, one to be tolerated as an obstacle, as a distraction from our intended path. Change is important to wake us up, to invigorate us, to give us a fresh purpose. With change comes new life and new opportunity.
As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
People face change differently, and some changes are more welcome than others. Many people have set out their life and work plans, and they don’t include yielding control to someone else. Some people feel that the changes imposed on them take the control out of their hands. I remember a subordinate engineer from many years ago that proudly told me “I have always chosen my own boss, not the other way around.” And he was happy to announce “I have decided to let you manage me.” Even though it’s a fallacy, some people seem to need a feeling of complete control of the events around them.