Driving Change Effectively

All organization change starts with a vision of how its strategy and processes could work more efficiently. But too often there is a disconnect between the redesign plan and actual implementation. To effectively drive change you need more than imaginings; you need follow-through.  

Two highly-regarded studies by Harvard Business School and Deloitte, found that despite the importance of innovation and change to an organization’s sustained success, a majority of change initiatives fail to achieve their objectives. Not because the plans or designs are flawed but because they aren’t effectively executed—or in many cases, implemented at all. The same company leaders who spend the time, money, and effort to create a new organization design can become immobilized when faced with putting a redesign into actual practice.

With apologies to Nike, it’s more than a matter of just do it. That lack of follow-through boils down to a simple truth: change is hard. It can be disruptive. And it is often resisted by the rank-and-file. So to go from blueprint to action requires a different skillset from those utilized for strategic planning. To be an effective change leader, you need to master the five following competencies.

Innovating. Finding creative ways to facilitate change will broaden perspectives of others in the organization, challenge the status quo, and encourage outside-the-box thinking.

Architecting. Aligning change with strategy connects goals with strategic priorities and business plan needs. The best architecting makes change less traumatic by implementing in smaller increments rather than all at once and by clearly showing how it is relevant to people’s daily work.

Communicating. When people understand why, what, and how change is happening and its intended end results there is less anxiety and more acceptance. The most effective communication is clear, detailed, and concise and presented across multiple platforms to accommodate different learning styles. Establishing a feedback loop to give employees a voice can boost morale and help identify any operational hiccups as they occur.

Leading by example. Being a role model and change advocate helps others adapt to the new ways of working more easily, encourages enthusiasm, and creates a sense of urgency to complete the new organization design.

Facilitating. Identifying key people to assist with the change. This can include creating cross-functional teams to assist with implementing new processes as well as involving those who can influence others to support change.

From Blueprint to Results

Honing these competencies will improve a leader’s ability to achieve buy-in from stakeholders, provide an understanding of how the change will impact each of them, and optimize performance towards accomplishing the stated goals. Through policies, goal setting, and control mechanisms leaders can also look beyond present operations to anticipate future fine-tuning as markets, technology, and consumer expectations change and evolve.

Lastly, driving change shouldn’t be the responsibility of a sole person or small team. Developing initiatives that nurture strong alignment leadership capabilities in people throughout the organization should be a priority so even if people retire or otherwise leave the company there will be continuity and adequate change leadership going forward.