Leaders experience change as a daily requirement; if you are a leader, you are a leader of change - there is no escaping it.
Here’s the second thing. The most important dimension of change is you, the change leader. The type of change leader you are - your mindset, behaviours and resilience - is arguably the most significant influence on the success of the change you are leading. As are the organisational conditions you create for the change to be successful.
First of all, who do we mean by change leader? It is inclusive of a range of roles:
- The business leader setting the change agenda.
- The programme or project manager leading the work to design and deliver the change.
- Key enablers of change, such as the HR director.
- A line manager leading the implementation of a change (set by themselves or others) and its impact on their team.
This is a broad category, emphasising the importance of change leadership throughout the organisation.
Creating the conditions – at an organisational level
For the purposes of this discussion, we want to take as given the work of the change programme or project - i.e. the project workstreams that together deliver the change. This does not underestimate the complexity and challenge that might be required, but the change is delivered into a living organisation, a living breathing system. The more powerful question to ask, is whether, as a change leader, you have created the conditions in the organisation for the change to land well (implementation) and survive (embed). This is increasingly a critical question to ask as companies adjust how they operate to become more agile organisations.
There are five organisational levers that contribute to creating healthy conditions for change. Change leaders would do well to consider how effective these levers are and what action they might need to take to create the best possible conditions for change:
- A clear statement of what the change is about. This is the vision that helps people unite behind a common goal and motivates them to endure the change.
- Effective leadership. Is there a strong co-operative leadership team, who demonstrate the behaviours needed to deliver the change? Are leaders shaping and influencing the right behaviours throughout the organisation?
- A strong culture. The organisation’s culture will facilitate or sabotage the change – or somewhere between the two. The culture might need shaping to support the implementation of the change.
- Excellent communications. A change project plan might have a communications workstream but what impact is it having, how engaged are those impacted, and how do you know? Effective engagement creates a level of understanding and acceptance of the change before you implement, which is better for business performance and better for individuals personally.
- Deliberate implementation. Most projects have an implementation plan but they are not necessarily designed in a way that will deliver the change. This is the intentional thinking about the required activities that will continue to deliver the change over time and deliver the planned returns.
Creating the conditions – you as the change leader
As introduced above, the type of change leader you are - your mindset, behaviours and resilience - is arguably the most significant influence on the success of the change you are leading. A project can have governance in place, a good structure and a competent change team, but the quality of the change leader will directly impact the quality of the change.
Change leaders should ask themselves some challenging questions about how effective a change leader they are and be prepared to change themselves if necessary. For example:
- How committed are you to the change; will you put in what it will take to deliver it?
- How well do you deal with resistance; what drives your response?
- How is your own resilience?
- You are the weather in your office: what weather do you create around you?
Objective and honest responses to questions such as these by the change leader will prepare you for what it takes to really deliver a change. The world of change is awash with process. Sometimes there is a focus on impact, but we will deliver even better change if we help leaders understand they are personally a condition for change and they would do well to respond to the requirements of being a great change leader.
Anna Davis is the managing director and founder of Crossing Jordan®, an independent change management consultancy. With specialist expertise in change management, organisation design and strategic capability development, she works with senior leaders across a range of industries and cultures to deliver high performance.
Crossing Jordan® has designed and developed Change Dimensions® – a practical change management business tool delivered as three leading-edge intuitive Change Apps®. These apps help you manage change, on the go and on any device – change at your fingertips. http://www.changedimensions.co.uk/