Three Truths for Effective Change Management
Many organizations fail at change management. Why? The 4 principle reasons why the old change management model fails more often than it succeeds:
· The few decide for the many
· Solutions first, people second
· Fear builds urgency
· Inequality is the norm
My favorite book on change management is Terms of Engagement by Richard H. Axelrod; he lays out a new model, one that creates the environment for effective and enduring change through engaging your employees in the process. What do the four fallible reasons above all have in common? No attempt by leadership to proactively engage employees in the process of change.
Next month, I am teaching Axelrod’s model to a Fortune 500 energy provider’s emerging leadership on behalf of LSU’s Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute. To put it succinctly, Axelrod’s approach is one that engages your employees in the process and defies the four reasons for failure outlined above. This post is focused on the role of leadership and how to use finesse to succeed and beat the odds.
Identify the issue and purpose. While on the surface this seems obvious, the real issue here is getting your head above the weeds and see what changes can alter your course to real improvement. All of us can get so caught up in day to day stuff we have to do to keep the office/operations going, but there must be time to think, discuss and prioritize strategies that impact your business into the future.
Manage relationships across boundaries. Both large and small organizations can operate in silos; mistrust, egos, incentive plans, geography, diversity, pettiness… the list is endless that creates these islands which block the efforts to work together. This truth means leaders must understand, and then break down the barriers and boundaries that exist – both real and imagined – to create the working relationships among those critical for the buy-in needed for effective change management.
Create freedom within the framework. This truth means creating the vision, set the parameters, then get out of the way. To promote creativity and freedom of thought, don’t try to prescribe the process for the creativity to occur. Leaders of change management should be more concerned about outcome and not managing the interim steps. This one is the hardest one for leaders to implement; all too often leaders want to control the process to get to their outcome. Effective change management means letting go of the need to control the process. Give the team the freedom to figure it out themselves.