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Change Management - Role of the Leader By Bob Maitland

This information is brought to you by mkt1on1 at Who is the leader? The leader is the one who can alter forces that can impact the change project. Depending on the magnitude of the change, this leader might be the CEO/Executive Director, VP, department manager, etc. If the organization culture must change to accommodate a new way of working, the leader MUST be the top dog, the CEO/President/Executive Director. Company culture is created from the top of the organization. Changes to the culture must be driven by the top of the organization. If it is an interdepartmental change, it must be the person in the organization who has influence/authority over all participants. A project manager can be delegated the responsibility for executing the tasks of the change. However, the leader (sponsor/champion) remains accountable for the success of the change effort. The majority of project managers fit into two categories. The first is a consultant-type (external or internal) who leaves after implementation. The second is a person in one of the departments affected by the change. This person returns to his/her original department after implementation and operates a part of what was implemented. Neither f these people can sustain the change across all effected parts of the organization, if the parts attempt to drift back to the old way. They are not accountable for the change results next year. The project manager can lead the work of change implementation. However, every major change needs to have an overall leader who will be accountable for maintaining the benefits on an ongoing basis. This person has to remain visible during and after the change effort. This person is the Process Owner. The first key to a successful change effort is, obviously, for the leader to understand what the change is. The second key is to understand the impact of the change to the work and the impact to the people. As leadership is about people, the impacts to consider can include behavior changes, impacts of status changes, impacts of re-distribution of power and authority, altered relationships and responsibilities, people performing new tasks outside of their comfort zone, etc. This leader must be the first one to make the appropriate changes in his/her own behavior, actions and attitudes. After all, leaders are role models. For example, if the change requires more open communication, then the leader must demonstrate more open communication. This is single most difficult part of any change effort. The head of the organization usually considers his/her old successful ways as the right way to lead. They are very willing to have the rest to of the organization change. But don't recognize that they drive the behavior of the organization. If they want it to change, they must SHOW the organization how to change. TELLING them how to change is not effective. Employees know that you vote with your feet. If you do not walk the talk, don't expect them to either. Being a role model is a major part of the success of change efforts. The next key after the leader understands the "new way" is to present the vision of how the world will work during and after the implementation. This vision needs to be framed in a way that lets the people know WIIFM (What's in it for me). Once they understand the benefit to themselves as well as the company, they will release their energy to move toward the vision. This alters the mindset of the followers. All people in an organization operate under the influence of external (to them) forces: culture -company and personal, policies and procedures, etc. But people also operate under influences that are internal to themselves (comfort zone): their mindset on power, authority, status, security, territoriality, personal competence, level of confidence, risk taking, etc. Forcing behavior changes may get you compliance. But it will not generate enthusiasm and commitment. (Side note: most change efforts target policies, procedures and technology and not how you think about the work.) A lasting change needs to alter the way people think in order to enable different behavior. This is the path of the effective leader. People move at different paces. The people who embrace the change more quickly should need less support. The people change more slowly will need more support to get over the hump. The fourth big key is stakeholder involvement. I know that many of you think that people resist change. I believe that this is incorrect. I believe that people do not mind change. They don't want to BE changed. People change themselves and their surroundings all of the time. They change houses, cars, jobs, hair color, spouses, etc. The difference is that in these decisions, they participated and often made the decision. Take advantage of this willingness to change. Involve them initially in understanding the What and Why of the change and subsequently in the planning and rollout.

Initially, it requires patience to work through the resistance and counter proposals. Recognize that this type of interaction is the norm in an open communication environment. Utilize the energy of the early adapters to move the effort forward. Leaders enlist these people as evangelists. They will help you move others along. Make sure that you include informal leaders in a major way. The last big key is leadership visibility in support of the project. When the leader uses his/her valuable time on the change effort, the employees recognize that it must be important. When the leader is a role model for new types of behavior, people pick up on it. When the leader communicates openly, including giving straight answers to tough questions, people begin to believe. When leaders react calmly to surprises, people have less anxiety when things do not go smoothly. When the leader follows the Deming prescription to Stay The Course, people recognize that it is not going away and they must deal with it. The big leader will usually delegate project responsibility. But he/she must remain visible, must request status, must meet with employees and feed the findings to the project manager for action, then report back to the people on the action taken. Lack of leader visibility and involvement is the single largest factor in the failure of change efforts. Having the top leaders engaged in the project will go a long way toward ensuring its success in transforming the organization. Leaders have a lot of things to do, a wide range of responsibilities. The leadership activities I've described above are in addition to what already fills up their day. It is understandable that once they delegate the change activity, they move on to other things. The majority of high-level leaders have trouble sustaining this visible role. This is a wrong thought process. If it is important enough to make a change to a large part of their organization, it HAS to be a high enough priority for the leader to stay involved. Many successful leaders find it helpful to have a mentor or a coach to offer guidance when adding this new role.

Change Management  

This information is brought to you by mkt1on1 at Who is the leader? By Bob Maitland

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