7 Conditions for Successful Organizational Change
Early in my career, I presented a “best solution” plan to a client’s organization problem. The board meeting with the leadership team agreed on the plan, timeline and execution. Great! What happened?
They never implemented it!
The sweat equity invested in research, plan development and presentation delivery found a dusty grave in my desk drawer. Why was it not implemented?
It didn’t become a priority.
It didn’t fit their personalities.
It didn’t fit their existing culture.
Culture Influencing entails what your organization values and believes. It determines the way you “do things around here.” You can’t order people to change their beliefs and daily behaviors because they are deeply embedded. You can’t require people to change if you’re first not willing to change yourself either. Read more here…
Organizational change is an evolving group effort. There are no shortcuts and it’s hard. You will be tempted to quit – so don’t! You must engage people to uncover their collective values, deep feeling and deep needs and their assumptions – these drive daily behaviors, which become habits – the “how we do things around here.”
You keep what’s needed and dump what you don’t.
You must put into practice new behaviors together and reinforce them by leading from the front – Leading Elegantly with Voltage. Learn from all the mistakes! Share all that’s working, what’s not, what the gap looks like, adjust, and support each other. It’s not ‘if’ it becomes ‘when’ you don’t, people will go back to ‘business as usual’. Drucker was dead on in his quote, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ If you don’t work with culture, the culture will work you over. What’s stopping you from capturing the last competitive advantage in the marketplace?
How long will you tolerate mediocrity?
How long can you go with the same old, same old and expect a different result?
At some point, you’ll invest in the short term pain to generate a growth and high-performance culture that delivers your organization and you the results you must have and strengthen the relationships your people want and deserve. Or, you won’t and return the same mediocre results and ineffective relationships.
How Culture Eats?
Culture devoured my first culture advice. I’m sharper than your average blade and knew how to analyze problems, evaluate arguments, and recommend the best strategic solution that can be executed. What was missting?
All the client had to do, was implement it. Educated as an organizational expert, I had done that. So what! They were polite, and they even meant it when they nodded in agreement to the discussion. For whatever reason, it didn’t resonate with them; just as this article may or may not resonate with you, too. Go here to uncover what a best next step may look like.
When there’s no activation of energy, nothing engaging enough to motivate and mobilize, and no enthusiasm garnered, then there’s no solution that would work in this organization or any other for that matter. So what! The realization came over the next dozen or so years in testing, auditing and fine-tuning over 20 frameworks. In developing this methodology starting with establishing small groups of organizational influencers before changing anything else. What evolved became the impetus to achieve lasting change:
The top executives must be committed. You and your team must link up and believe in the direction of change and its expected gains. This commitment means stepping in to personal change – to recognize you’re really not as great as your ego tells you that you are. Your committment demonstrates your willingness to step up and to evolve and grow personally; enduring the discomfort of adopting new behaviors, habits to exhibit new perceptions from your people. That’s your measuring stick – feedback from peers, colleagues and others.
Without clarity, efforts tend to fracture and confuse. You need to know where you are, where you want to go, why you must move now before identifying and evaluating the how to get there now. The Elegant Leader knows their role is to communicate clarity, hope and vision.
The agreement to begin, fuels commitment. I can’t change you AND you can’t change ‘them’! The CEO can’t change thousands, not even 12 of them. You can influence them, and role model the change you wants to see. It’s not enough for others to change their behaviors because nothing will change in the organization as a whole. You achieve true consensus in smaller groups to gain traction, develop synergy and finally a movement that becomes sustainable.
We grow bigger, better by growing smaller.
Avoid kidding yourself, thus feeding your ego, to change in a large auditorium where the CEO tells others what to change. Really? People must #GoDeeper: explore the why, the what, the how, and the who before they may agree to customize and apply the proposed change to their daily situation. It takes dialogue, reflection, objections, what-if’s, and changing some beliefs or assumptions.
Communicate Simply and Powerfully
Communicate, have deeper conversations, ask, challenge, explain, and exchange. Great communication creates meaning, connection. Seek understanding, give respect, and confidence to make change happen. Communicate and support each other through small teams. Communicating simply and powerfully is a practical and graceful way to Lead.
Copy and Coach Consistently
Respond instead of react to all behaviors all the time. This step is a significant leadership skill that seems to be often lacking. Leverage the ‘copy’ mechanism in small groups so people will do what you do. You are called to Be the Message as the leader. Be the change you want to see on the team. Model it. Catch then doing it right. There will be some watching your every move waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’ so they can go, “Aha, see! I told you they’d F it up.” Small behaviors have a huge impact and your ability, your commitment to consistently keep doing it: copy, coach, and, if needed, correct is what will give your efforts transforMOTION!
We’ve discussed this factor in a number of instances. Anyone can get 3, 6, 10% of a market by following simple steps. It takes a focused disciplined approach with purpose to reach the tipping point (see the Diffusion of Innovation article here). When your behaviors are spreading through the organizational system, you’re on the right track. To reach critical mass, enough people are displaying the new behaviors consistently to make it a clear, concise and compelling reason or a new “normal” for everyone to do so – even for the ones who resisted so far.
Keep up the good work. It’s hard – so don’t quit! The minute you ease up ‘on the pedal’ is the minute people will go back to their old comfortable habits. As the Elegantly Leader, you model being comfortable in the ‘gray’ in the uncomfortable. Help them through the “messy middle” of change to a better ending, when “new” has become “normal.”
By the way, if you like this list make sure to check out an article here is it climate or culture you’re really bothered by. Do you want to know more about our Culture Influencing programs? Here’s a precis to show you what’s possible:
Successful change is a deep move that generates transforMOTION and often comes with these three characteristics:
Bottom-up, inclusive to engage everyone
It’s a personal and collective change concurrently
It’s focused on specific, daily behaviors, percpetions and habits