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Tenet #3 - Ten Tenets of Change Management

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by Larry Pendergrass, Principal

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.

Over my career, I have seen stellar examples of change management, along with examples of very poor practices. One of the best examples came in a high-tech organization that had suffered a significant reduction in revenue and profits during a macroeconomic downturn. The impact was so bad that it was necessary to close or sell off large businesses and lay off much of the work force. This change was a critical save-the-firm event, and came with little questioning from the executive team. When the dust settled, the organization was a shadow of its former self. Although the loss of a job is a traumatic experience for any worker, and the loss of a job during a significant macroeconomic event is even worse, we sometimes forget about the impact on those that remain behind. Overworked and underappreciated, mourning the loss of their friends, without the vision that had driven them before, these survivors struggle to know how to go on.

The leader of this organization demonstrated one of the best examples of change management that I have seen by creating a guiding coalition. With individual and group discussions, through mandatory reading, using private and therapeutic sharing of personal impact, and painting a new and positive vision, this leader was able to re-invigorate a leadership team that had been beaten and bruised. The message was simple and clear. “The future is bright but different, and this crisis allows us to remake ourselves.” The critical requirement for each key leader to act as an emissary, as an apostle of the message, and as an untiring advocate for the novum coeptum[1] was flawlessly articulated. This campaign wasn’t a threat. The passion of the leader made it hard to not be on board! We were there, not just to witness a phoenix rising from the ashes, but to be the caretakers of a new success. And as leaders in the organization, we became the best advocates for necessary change. We were that desperately needed guiding coalition.

Rolling out significant change requires significant help. It requires people you can trust, people that have worked with you to understand the need for change, the stakes and the sense of urgency. Your first battle is for the minds and hearts of those who will be your emissaries. They should be well respected, have authority to act, and possess solid decision-making skills. Choose them carefully, help them understand what needs to be done, charter them well and send them out to drive change into all corners.

In my next blog, I will discuss the need to break your change project into natural phases that can be used to show clear progress.


[1] New undertaking or beginning

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