Much of the work I have done with companies over the last twenty years has been primarily driven by change. A new acquisition. A merger. A reorganization. Or sometimes the changes are smaller: a new executive integrating into a team, a first-time manager learning how to lead, the departure of a key team member that leaves the rest of the team in disarray.
What I have come to realize through both my work and my graduate studies is that change will never cease in organizations and yet most of the time we treat change as a one-time thing. That acquisition is all about getting the new folks hired and integrated into the existing structure, about combining systems or facilities, assigning the right sales reps and customer service people to the new customers, and then we’re done.
Not so fast.
Change is ever-present in organizations, and it is much more messy and unpredictable than we’d like it to be. Which is why I have put together a model for organizational change that I want to share with you. This model can be applied for large-scale changes and small shifts. It provides the ability to look at change holistically, considering the three key elements of creating and sustaining successful change:
Incorporating all three components of this approach to change is the secret to building buy-in, engagement, and sustained implementation of the change you are seeking.
Beginning with the foundation of strategic clarity means truly understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with this change. It includes an assessment of where you are today, and a vision for where you want to go. But the distinction in this approach to strategic planning is two-fold: it drives clarity on WHY you’re making the change and why your stakeholders should care, and it provides a tool to make sense of your status quo in a way that clearly dictates the type of actions needed. Will best practices suffice to create the change you want, or do you need to try something more emergent and innovative? This approach gives you the steps necessary to analyze the key components and choose the best course of action.
It may seem obvious that conscious leadership is a critical component of successful change, but it is often overlooked in strategic planning models. By conscious leadership, I mean leadership that is truly based in integrity and transparency, uses a foundation of key values to drive behaviour, and considers the impact on all stakeholders equally before choosing action. This approach to leadership draws on the work of organizations like Conscious Capitalism, books like Firms of Endearment, and Ed Freeman’s Stakeholder Theory to provide a comprehensive roadmap to leadership that drives phenomenal results.
The third component of the model is a detailed look at execution planning. The execution phase is when most change efforts fail. Great effort and thought is put into the strategy itself, and often into the systems and processes that will support the change, but the missing ingredient is understanding how people respond to change. An execution planning strategy involves looking at the readiness for change in the people who will experience it, as well as in the organization as a whole. We analyze the urgency of change – why do we need it? – and the capability of the organization to accomplish the change – can we do it? Strategies for understanding and overcoming resistance to change go hand-in-hand with a systematic look at the points of leverage where you can maximize results.
The underpinnings of this approach include tools such as a logic model that helps you see what the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the change might be, as well as what might happen if you do nothing. We also look for, map, and transform the polarization in the organization that stalls or derails meaningful change. At each step of the process, this approach is supported by established systems for change that leave you with concrete tools and techniques for enhancing your leadership and your results.
Over the coming weeks I will share some of the tools in each component of this organizational change approach so that you can try them out on your own.
If you are interested in learning more, I will also be offering a free webinar series that digs into each component of change in more detail, starting this fall. Stay tuned for dates and times!