Peter Drucker once said “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Leading change in organizations today requires a balance of working towards a clear vision of the future while maintaining open lines of communication with leaders, managers, and employees so you can continue to address the needs, challenges, opportunities, and priorities that arise each moment.
Our personal experience in the world is proof enough that change is constant and accelerating. The main drivers of this relentless pace are technology and access to information. Our society is evolving and businesses must evolve with it or risk extinction – some estimate that in 10 years, 40% of the current companies listed in the Fortune 500 will no longer be here. Leading change in this environment takes on a different connotation than ever before, as leadership is not only needed at the highest levels of the organization in order to be successful but from every single employee.
Organizations are not a solid entity, but a collection of people. Therefore, change cannot happen on the organizational level until change is embraced at the individual level. Unfortunately, this fact is often ignored or forgotten, and as a result, the change is resisted by employees and fails (Data Source: Maurer and Co.):
- Only 20-30% of all reengineering projects succeed
- Only 23% of all mergers and acquisitions make back their costs
- Just 43% of quality-improvement efforts make satisfactory progress
- 31% of major technology projects are cancelled before completion
So if we can’t avoid change and most change fails – then how do we successfully lead change? The answer is not simple, given no company is the same, but we can follow a few guiding principles:
- Establish a vision for the change that is connected to the company’s purpose and strategy, then provide role clarity, set clear priorities and align the organization
- Set context and build a guiding coalition that will extend a leadership shadow across the organization of what is expected and what is to come
- Create and implement leadership visibility and change ambassador programs to role model desired behaviors and disseminate consistent and compelling information and messages across the organization
- Identify key stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders, community members, etc.) and plan for change impacts for each group
- Map the transformation journey, then prioritize, pace and sequence workstreams, and project plan (making sure to recognize dependencies)
- Assess the need for culture change as it relates to the larger organizational change – what cultural strengths should be preserved? What can be improved?
- Establish training, best practices, or templates/tools where it would add value to the change team
- Develop communication strategy and key messages to inspire employees and connect heads, hearts and hands
- Empower employees through communications, training, and/or tools to take an active role in leading change as it relates to their role, team, and business area
- Open and maintain a 2-way communication feedback loop between leadership and employees – not only delivering the right information at the right time, to the right audiences, but also taking the time to listen for the response
- Enable risk-taking, invite the unpopular
- Continually assess to make course corrections and enable celebrations of progress along the way