Organizations continue to grow and remain competitive when they support and implement continuous and transformational change. However, managing the complexities of change can be challenging for leaders at all levels of an organization. What are some approaches leaders can take to managing change to ensure successful transformations?
Effective leadership is one of the main components necessary to achieve a successful change initiative. Leaders who are the most effective at implementing change are those who not only focus on the operational or structural side of change but also prioritize the human component as well. These change leaders provide their employees with a clear vision and a strategy for achieving that vision and then guide their employees in the desired direction, communicating and motivating them to complete their tasks. Outlined below are four people-centered imperatives that should be addressed as a part of any change initiative.
The role of leadership in change management requires helping people buy into your vision for the organization – failure to do so can be detrimental to any change effort. To cultivate ownership and commitment, establish a clear vision for the change management process including what is going to change, how the change will impact the organization, and most importantly, why the change is needed. Communicate this vision clearly, consistently, continually, and through various mediums. Articulating the purpose behind the change will create stronger buy-in and a sense of urgency.
When carrying out transformation projects, leaders must think about the role that employees play as well as their “people needs” across the organization. You should engage employees early on and at levels of the organization, especially those most affected by the change in its implementation. Provide opportunities to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with change, and (when appropriate) incorporate feedback from employees. This builds ownership and makes it more likely that employees will support the change. A recent CEB study showed that when employees actively participated in making and shaping change decisions, the change effort was three times more likely to succeed as initiatives developed solely by leaders. Effective training and learning opportunities should also be offered to teach employees the skills and knowledge required to handle new changes and processes. Despite efforts to provide a supporting change structure, not everyone will embrace the proposed changes. Our article, “Managing Stakeholder Resistance to Change,” provides tactics to overcome employee resistance to change.
Leaders need to pay attention to the change process and identify any barriers to progress. Be accountable for what is working and what isn’t working and take actions to address any shortcomings. Employees will see your commitment to fixing problems with a “no-blame” openness. Recognize milestones and employee actions in support of the change. Make the recognition public so that you reinforce the behaviors that you want to see with all of your other employees. Again, don’t forget to communicate progress! A survey byMcKinsey found that at companies where senior managers communicated openly and across the organization about the transformation’s progress, respondents were eight times more likely to report a successful transformation compared to those who said this communication didn’t happen.
Leaders play a huge role in shaping the attitudes and behaviors of their employees. They set the tone for how a change initiative will shape out, influencing whether employees embrace the change or resist it. According to McKinsey, when senior leaders model the behavior changes that they’re asking employees to make, transformations are five times more likely to be successful. You can show employees your commitment to the change by removing any barriers to success, providing support to your employees, measuring progress, and quickly managing resistance.
Managing change is one of the most fundamental and enduring aspects of leadership, and managing the people side of change cannot be overstated. To be an effective change leader you must inform, engage, empower, and inspire your employees and provide them with strength, support, and direction. With such guidance, employees will be more apt to change their daily behaviors and adopt new ways of working, increasing the odds that the change initiative will be a success.
CEB. (2016). Making change management work. Retrieved from https://www.cebglobal.com/content/dam/cebglobal/us/EN/best-practices-decision-support/human-resources/pdfs/making-change-management-work-whitepaper1.pdf
Deshler, R. 2016, April 13). The role of leadership in change management. Retrieved from https://alignorg.com/the-role-of-leadership-in-change-management/
Galbraith, M. (2018, October 5). Don’t just tell employees organizational changes are coming– explain why. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/dont-just-tell-employees-organizational-changes-are-coming-explain-why
Heathfield, S. (2019, January 21). Executive support and leadership in change management. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/executive-support-and-leadership-in-change-management-1917803
Jacquemont, D., Maor, D., & Reich, A. (2015). How to beat the transformation odds.Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/how-to-beat-the-transformation-odds
Mitchell, R. (2019, June). Change leadership. Retrieved from http://asq.org/blog/2019/06/change-leadership/