Organisational change comes in many shapes or forms, from continuous improvement initiatives, downsizing, mergers and acquisitions to technical upgrades and changes in leadership. If there’s anything guaranteed in life besides death and taxes, it’s change within today’s business world. So to lead change effectively, you need to become a champion of change.
Typically, when organisations undergo change initiatives, leaders tend to focus on laying out the practical steps they must take. But they often ignore the human component of change:
- Steering their teams toward the new vision
- Transforming culture
- Encouraging learning and growth
Whether your organisation is embarking on a CI initiative, adjusting its operations, or marketing new services, the course shift will require employees to think, act and behave differently to align to the new direction. It is important to remember that they are only human, and thus they will not automatically adapt to new processes. It’s only natural for them to feel frustrated and to demonstrate some level of resistance.
To defuse this potential conflict effectively and drive the desired results, you need to build a repertoire of strong interpersonal skills. DOWNLOAD the Interpersonal Skills for Team Leaders infographic pack for quick tips, key steps and guidance on how to cultivate and deploy these critical competencies.
Transformation action steps
Transforming an organisation from its current state to a world class organisation calls for substantial changes in structure, systems, culture and behaviour at all levels of the organisation.
To guide your team through a successful transformation, consider these five action steps:
- Start with a vision
- Develop a strategy
You need a common vision on how your team will work together and with any stakeholders to make the change initiative a reality. With a stated vision, you’ll eliminate any confusion for your employees or any stakeholders on how the team will adapt. Prioritise setting this vision ahead of all other tasks. Your team members must remain focused on and aligned with this vision, so try to avoid starting competing initiatives at the same time. Introducing too many new things at once will create an implosion of all efforts.
Your team members and other stakeholders need to understand their roles in implementing a strategy that will fulfil the vision. Understand who your stakeholders are and what they need so that you are able to engage with them.
Questions you need to answer include the following:
- What new skills and abilities will employees need?
- How will employees learn them?
- What is the plan for communicating with employees and other stakeholders about the change?
- How will you measure success?
- What is needed to make transformation stick?
To successfully lead change, you need to be a dynamic role model. A team needs to know that their leader is personally committed to the success of the change. Practise this by removing barriers, providing resources, ensuring learning, partnering with stakeholders, supporting employees through change, measuring progress and quickly managing resistance. The critical success factors for sustainable organisational change are discussed in the article Managing change to last.
Middle and front-line leaders are the primary communicators to employees. Communication from them should be frequent and consistent. Everyone affected by the change needs to know:
- what it entails
- why and how it is happening
- what’s in it for them
Don’t impose change; engage employees in a conversation about it. Ask them what they think and how they are feeling. They will talk if you listen.
In addition to laying out the plan in clear terms, let employees know how you intend to update them as the change initiative unfolds. For example, will you call a special meeting each week to update them on the change? Will you send out a weekly email?
Concern is a normal response to a change initiative. Create a safe environment and a mechanism that allows employees to air their issues and problems before there is any chance of escalation or derailment. Acknowledge the emotional turmoil, and then respond fairly, reasonably and in alignment with the vision of the change. But keep in mind that what you think is a small issue may be a large concern for the person affected.
So whenever you can, explain the rationale behind decisions that will affect your team. In fact, whenever you see a chance to lessen uncertainty and increase understanding, take it. Uncertainty feeds anxiety; knowledge calms it.
Organisational change is a complex process that requires time, patience and dedication. But by shepherding your team through the emotional ups and downs of needed change initiatives, you help them build a track record of success that can sustain them during future change.
DOWNLOAD How to Guide: Interpersonal Skills for Team Leaders for more detailed advice on the critical skills required to successfully lead change across all work teams.
|The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.|