How to Lead Change Every Time?
Research has repeatedly shown the vast majority of initiatives requiring significant change in ‘how business gets done’ fail to meet their expectations, with only 25-30% achieving their stated objectives. Change disciplines focus on process, tools, systems and techniques to help organizations implement successful projects on budget, on time, and with minimal disruption – READ PAIN. Yet, these elements are indisputable and instrumental to any successful change.
What is most often missing is how and where to focus on building the capabilities of leading change at all levels. A perspective on the human side of change is essential, where changing attitudes, behaviors and habits of people who commit to the change for it to be sustainable. We have witnessed and experienced when a change is merely accepted it eventually fails; all it needs is time. The solution requires leaders to encourage input and a sense of urgency from the employee population. The leadership team must stand up, step up and lead through all levels to increase collaboration, collective problem-solving, and creatively celebrating success. The energy to lead change requires a different mindset to shift tools, technology and processes. It demands no less than the best behaviors achieved through building change leadership capacity for the success, scalability and sustainability of any change. Here’s a shocker for you:
“Good, even Great, Change Leadership Doesn’t Exist” – John Kotter
Successful change for the 30% that do succeed, does happen and usually it’s organically and surprisingly unintentional. Our research is based on dozens of live, real-world change efforts – both those that have succeeded and those that failed or fell short of the stated objectives. We stand on our record as 94% of our change efforts have been successfull and sustainable. We’re not a big box solution, nor do we approach every opportunity with a ‘we must win this’ mentality either. We hand-select you just as you hand-select us. Frankly, it should be this way if we’re going to be in each other’s business for several years.
The most successful transformations, whether at an organizational, regional or national level, always have a few critical ingredients. One example was a 100-year old Canadian manufacturing organization that evolved from multiple facilities and multiple silos in several townships into one cohesive unit that rejuvenated a community. The rebirth of this small town became part of the centennial celebration and put hundreds of people back to work who were previously unemployed. The ones that surprised even us have been able to create movements by inspiring aligned action from a wide variety of stakeholders.
Another example was a recreation manufacturer that rolled up eight operating units into one. Buried in debt from the consolidation of operations, together we created a community culture where economies of scale and synergies of operational effectiveness blended ‘what we all do best’ into one dominate brand while keeping the cache of the intimate line extensions the marketplace desired.
These examples highlight the impact change leadership has on implementation in complex situations. What about the efforts that are unsucessful? There are many examples of initiatives that ‘fall short of expectations’ or simply fail. Without addressing cultural norms, there are many examples of projects that get ‘executed’, but are simply ineffective.
One such instance occurred where the business strategy was sound, the employee population receptive, the resources available or time were not issues. So how did it go sour? Ego – sheer ego! The first statement after we exchanged pleasantries was, “I was brought in here to change the culture…I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.” I’m sure your response in reading this was no different than mine experiencing it. My opening salvo was simple – why am I here then? Change leadership is essentially about human nature – it’s agnostic, free of industry, sector, scale, culture, etc. – the specific approach and impact is context specific. The one constant in all failed change initiatives evolves around someone’s ego. I recall the line in the 80’s movie of something like, ‘…you’re ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash!’ #priceless
In many tune up, turnaround, growth and performance organizations, leadership roles are filled based on technical competencies, tenure or political motivations – not demonstrated leadership skills. We follow this same tired and broken model at the lowest practical level as well – promote the best operator, because, ‘…well, he’s the best operator’ – incredibly brilliant, not! Yet, we see this approach over and over again and wonder after 30+ years how myopic are you?
What are the Key Elements to a Successful Approach?
We have witnessed over the past few two decades hundreds of change initiatives and have distilled them into an approach that is sticky, replicable and scalable. Having a painstakingly deliberate and strategic approach to change leadership ensures what you must do to be successful year-over-year. Your decision is to justify the investment realtive to the impact. Our methodology is predictable and measurable for results while strengthening relationships – that’s the whole point of any change initiative. Being better going forward.
Simple, Powerful, Practical and Graceful.