How to Lead Change Every Time?

Research has repeatedly shown the vast majority of initiatives requiring significant change in ‘how business gets done’ fail to meet their expectations, with only 25-30% achieving their stated objectives. Change disciplines focus on process, tools, systems and techniques to help organizations implement successful projects on budget, on time, and with minimal disruption – READ PAIN. Yet, these elements are indisputable and instrumental to any successful change.

What is most often missing is how and where to focus on building the capabilities of leading change at all levels. A perspective on the human side of change is essential, where changing attitudes, behaviors and habits of people who commit to the change for it to be sustainable. We have witnessed and experienced when a change is merely accepted it eventually fails; all it needs is time. The solution requires leaders to encourage input and a sense of urgency from the employee population. The leadership team must stand up, step up and lead through all levels to increase collaboration, collective problem-solving, and creatively celebrating success. The energy to lead change requires a different mindset to shift tools, technology and processes. It demands no less than the best behaviors achieved through building change leadership capacity for the success, scalability and sustainability of any change. Here’s a shocker for you:

“Good, even Great, Change Leadership Doesn’t Exist” – John Kotter

Successful change for the 30% that do succeed, does happen and usually it’s organically and surprisingly unintentional. Our research is based on dozens of live, real-world change efforts – both those that have succeeded and those that failed or fell short of the stated objectives. We stand on our record as 94% of our change efforts have been successfull and sustainable. We’re not a big box solution, nor do we approach every opportunity with a ‘we must win this’ mentality either. We hand-select you just as you hand-select us. Frankly, it should be this way if we’re going to be in each other’s business for several years.

The most successful transformations, whether at an organizational, regional or national level, always have a few critical ingredients. One example was a 100-year old Canadian manufacturing organization that evolved from multiple facilities and multiple silos in several townships into one cohesive unit that rejuvenated a community. The rebirth of this small town became part of the centennial celebration and put hundreds of people back to work who were previously unemployed. The ones that surprised even us have been able to create movements by inspiring aligned action from a wide variety of stakeholders.

Another example was a recreation manufacturer that rolled up eight operating units into one. Buried in debt from the consolidation of operations, together we created a community culture where economies of scale and synergies of operational effectiveness blended ‘what we all do best’ into one dominate brand while keeping the cache of the intimate line extensions the marketplace desired.

These examples highlight the impact change leadership has on implementation in complex situations.  What about the efforts that are unsucessful? There are many examples of initiatives that ‘fall short of expectations’ or simply fail. Without addressing cultural norms, there are many examples of projects that get ‘executed’, but are simply ineffective.

One such instance occurred where the business strategy was sound, the employee population receptive, the resources available or time were not issues. So how did it go sour? Ego – sheer ego! The first statement after we exchanged pleasantries was, “I was brought in here to change the culture…I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.” I’m sure your response in reading this was no different than mine experiencing it. My opening salvo was simple – why am I here then? Change leadership is essentially about human nature – it’s agnostic, free of industry, sector, scale, culture, etc. – the specific approach and impact is context specific. The one constant in all failed change initiatives evolves around someone’s ego. I recall the line in the 80’s movie of something like, ‘…you’re ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash!’ #priceless

In many tune up, turnaround, growth and performance organizations, leadership roles are filled based on technical competencies, tenure or political motivations – not demonstrated leadership skills. We follow this same tired and broken model at the lowest practical level as well – promote the best operator, because, ‘…well, he’s the best operator’ – incredibly brilliant, not! Yet, we see this approach over and over again and wonder after 30+ years how myopic are you?

What are the Key Elements to a Successful Approach?

We have witnessed over the past few two decades hundreds of change initiatives and have distilled them into an approach that is sticky, replicable and scalable. Having a painstakingly deliberate and strategic approach to change leadership ensures what you must do to be successful year-over-year. Your decision is to justify the investment realtive to the impact. Our methodology is predictable and measurable for results while strengthening relationships – that’s the whole point of any change initiative. Being better going forward.

Simple, Powerful, Practical and Graceful.

Purpose. Intrinsic motivators connect the purpose of work more effectively. They ensure the purpose and the opportunities to improve the lives of your employee population remain front and center while delivering the results you must have. Elegant Leaders create a sense of commitment that promote energetic, effective teams to deliver expected outcomes with stronger relationships.

Mastery and Autonomy. Dan Pink, in his book Drive, makes the case for motivating employees by evolving roles that provide autonomy, mastery and purpose. True motivation is amplified through greater autonomy in how people do their work and create opportunities to engage with one another. They want the autonomy, they expect accountability and they need to know their contribution matters. Show them!

Communication as a System. Articulating the vision for the project and constantly connecting to it answers the question ‘what will be different when we are successful’? The compelling message you deliver helps your people make decisions consistent with the overall vision for your organization let along a project.  Consistently reminding people of what the project will and will not achieve avoids mission creep, misalignment and wasted resources.

Engage Everyone. Your people often have much longer tenure and a deeper understanding of the day-to-day operations and challenges than the leadership team. By involving everyone early, via our small group model of change circles – even in the project design stage – communicating consistently and creating opportunities for involvement from staff across the organization, change leadership taps into the knowledge base of everyone who are in the best position to know what will and will not work. In essence, those closest to the work, closest to the root cause of problems and creative solutions. Here’s a simple self assessment:

Does Your Company Have the Cultural Capacity for High Performance and Growth?

We offer a 90-day Quick Start program for you to test the waters. Smart leaders will run a pilot to ensure the direction is clear and the strategy is sound. If you’re tired of tolerating mediocrity, if you’re not clear or successful you’re not going to like where you end up, then consider taking another step forward and ask questions. You know what will happen and what it will cost you if you do nothing?  We come alongside your team to teach and coach your team and it can be implemented for years to come. If you don’t believe you’re going to stop at nothing to achieve the results you must have to be successful, then you shouldn’t consider us. Those that have consistently received 5-10X on their investment.

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