In the recent years, organizations have done better in managing and guiding change. But the challenge is that the world is changing faster than organizations are getting better at it, and the gap may be growing. The rate of change is increasing, though not linearly. Many organizations just can’t keep up with the speed of change.
Individuals, teams, and organizations change for sure reasons. The reactive reasons are: imminent danger, a powerful enemy, or terrible pain. The most proactive reason is : inspired leadership. People respond to passion, vision, rage, or a compelling argument for changing.
It’s not surprising how many successful change efforts start with rage-when people get so fed up with an existing situation that they take action. But they do so without prior study and plan.
In order to continue improving capability for change, organizations and leaders should focus their efforts in several areas.
Firstly, they must create a sense of urgency. They must convince people that they are facing a grave problem and must do something about it. People often fail to register the actual urgency and they prefer to talk on new business lines or newer vision. As a result, the sustainability of a ‘change program’ is threatened because the driving force of ‘urgency’ is absent right from the start.
Leaders come up short in the ability to make their vision compelling to their constituents. Leaders not only need a vision, but must be able to communicate it in such a way that other people want to join in and see that it’s in their interests to further that vision.
Some people do recognize the immediacy of the problem. But many go deeply into denial. Thus, the people at the top may think there’s plenty sense of urgency, yet if you dig down into the organization, you discover it’s not nearly what it needs to be to sustain change through the whole process.
So if the management cribs about the futility of their two-year change efforts, who would want to hear that their problem was back at the beginning, that of creating the sense of urgency?
There are many effective ways of facilitating change. Organizations can pick a competent outside help, who really understands the issues and complexities involved. And then the organization should listen carefully to solutions given. The head of the organization should then refrain from getting carried away by opinions given by his confidantes.
Almost any consultant can pull together a recommendation for change, but the best ones excel at influencing events and people to bring about lasting, positive transformation.
It’s also important for clients to understand how consultants can help them. Clients should know and be educated on the fact that they may not know how to make that outside help work well to resolve their issues.
It is vital that leaders maintain full momentum inspite of all odds like layoffs or redeployments.
Fear is an inherent part of a ‘change’ program, even if it is executed with full buy-in by the employees. So fear will be a factor to tackle, although not necessarily for everybody or to the same degree.
Fear as a problem can be addressed through better communication of the vision for which the change program is underway. Employees need to be convinced that there is a better future and this is the right way to get there. People do resist change because they’re afraid. But they also resist change if they perceive that it’s being done stupidly.
So a better strategy would be to back up this communication with proper action on ground. Every time a small milestone is achieved, fear goes down because credibility goes up. When people see it being done right, their fear level quite rationally goes down and their conviction grows that the plan can work. Skepticism on the intellectual side and fear on the emotional both go down.
Leaders and consultants should have a clear understanding of the ‘thought’ dynamics within any organization which is on a major ‘change’ program.
When organizations want something to change, they want to get on with it quickly. There is a problem, the boss wants it fixed, and so the pressure is felt throughout the ranks below. This creates a panic reaction on the fence-sitters: “let’s get out”.
Leaders should be able to identify their real ‘change agents’ and should be able to negotiate the possible pitfalls on the track. All this should be done without spending too much time. Speed is important, increasingly so.
Getting some insight upfront can save a lot of grief and money later on.
CFO’s…You cannot put the entire blame on the change agents or on your CEO! You are still accountable!