Five Things Effective Change Leaders Do Every Day

Five Things Effective Change Leaders Do Every Day

Most change projects fail. In fact, according to Harvard Business School, 70% of all change projects miss their targets. In my experience, these failures are because change leaders are reactive rather than proactive. When making reactive change, people are not ready to adapt. The culture isn’t prepared for change. Employee satisfaction levels fall, and productivity follows.

Effective change is determined by both change leadership and change management.

Here I look at five reasons why change leadership fails and what effective change leaders do every day.

Five reasons why change leadership fails

Effective change leadership anticipates the problems that a change project will face and then takes proactive steps to combat those problems. When these problems are understood, strategizing and planning for them becomes a proactive chain of events: a chain that is actioned on a daily basis to ensure your change project doesn’t fail. Here are the five most common problems that affect change projects at the big picture level, and how change leadership can successfully tackle these issues every day.

1) Tackling Failing change sponsorship

Too often, change sponsors start with great enthusiasm and a vocal and visual presence that creates impetus for change but then simply disappear. Getting them to stay on board with the change project can be difficult when their daily duties take over.

The first job of change leadership is to identify and on-board change sponsors. The change sponsor must understand the value of the change project, and change leadership will keep the sponsor fully involved with regular meetings and updates.

Effective change leadership will also look for sponsors (or influencers) at all levels throughout the organisation.

Communication with change sponsors should be a daily event:

  • Confirm the sponsor’s roles and responsibilities
  • Confirm change as part of business strategy
  • Provide examples of good sponsorship practice (and praise when these practices are employed)
  • Keep sponsorship visibility high

2) Ineffective communication fails change projects

In the big picture, strategy is the overriding business case for change. Too often I see this strategy held tightly at senior executive level, and employees are left wondering what is happening. They immediately become disengaged. This is most commonly a communicative issue. Here’s how to tackle this on a daily basis:

  • Be positive about the change every day and in every team meeting
  • Discuss the reasons for change and its benefits to all: individuals, teams, and the organisation
  • Use all appropriate communication channels – email, intranet, notice boards, team and one-on-one meetings, etc.

3) Insufficient resources deployed destroys change project success

The bigger the project, the larger the resource needed to lead effective change. Resource requirements need to be defined at the outset, and then monitored on a daily basis. Change is fluid, and so resource is also likely to be:

  • Undertake analysis of the organisation and change project progress
  • Assess the effects on all stakeholders, and identify the early adapters that will promoter change
  • Identify the people required to design and coordinate the steps required to implant the new behaviours required: your change managers

4) Change reverts back to the norm with a lack of long-term follow through

More than half of all change projects meet their initial goals, and yet 70% of all projects fail. This is because change leadership often stops when the project has been ‘completed’. The trouble is that change is never finished, and a project needs to be embedded as the way of doing things. Old habits are hard to break, as are old working practices:

  • Support change managers and all stakeholders in the long-term
  • Ensure project sponsors also take this long-term view
  • Instigate a package of training and coaching
  • Reinforce coaching with regular one-on-one and team sessions
  • Take an open and honest approach to communicating the ongoing change, and discussing concerns

5) Unchecked resistance and change project failure

Resistance to change grows the further down the organisation you travel. A Towers Watson survey in 2013 showed that nearly three quarters of senior managers understood the need for and benefits of change, but this had eroded to just 40% by the time the message had travelled to team leaders and line-supervisors. No wonder resistance increases on the frontline.

Correcting this is, of course, a prime aim of your communication policies, but you should also seek to identify, employ, and energise your change managers.

Be proactive every day for effective change leadership

Change leaders will analyse their current situation and visualise the future. But that isn’t enough to make effective and lasting change. With a change project, anticipate the problems that will be faced and communicate the need and benefits often. Great change leaders plan for problems and put those plans into action every day. And they also employ great change managers who work tirelessly every day to ensure change leadership effectiveness trickles down the line.

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Change management, innovation, leadership

As you can imagine, I spend a fair amount of time keeping up with changes and challenges faced by industry and business in the fields of change management and innovation. So I’m constantly on the lookout for information and news that may impact behaviour and best practice across organisations.

Here’s a pick of what I’ve been attracted to this week:

Change Management

However, in the absence of any change management initiatives, the process of designing and deploying new software can be undermined, leaving the potential …

Suppose the management lens was smeared, even opaque. …Managers need a change of mindset and a commitment to exploration, moving beyond reading …

This upcoming session features a talk by Tina Schuelke, owner and executive director of Change Management Communications, a business coaching company.

Sylvia Gaffney, PhD, change management/organizational development practitioner, says, “Really good villains master buoyancy skills, because their lives are …

Innovation News

Innovation – whether in a corporate setting, a nonprofit entity or a government organization – adds value when it is viewed as a sustaining force of creativity that .

Innovation Management has now become a discipline unto itself, and along with it, how more progressive companies are managing their innovation pipelines.

Pitney Bowes receives innovation award … to create analytics-enabled asset performance management solutions for Pitney Bowes’ solutions and clients.

InfoQ interviewed Susana Jurado Apruzzese about using the lean startup approach for innovationmanaging innovation and using KPIs, how lean startup and …

Where My Words Have Travelled

publish around the place from time to time. Here’s the latest:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the subject of a lot debate in the blogosphere. Will they be a disruptive technology for universities? Will they take over the trainer’s job in corporate organizations?

From a higher education perspective, it’s easy to see the selling point for students

In 1987 Paul O’Neill became the CEO of Alcoa. Taking over the helm of a company usually means making grand statements about finances, about cutting costs, and change the investment priorities. But what O’Neill did at his first investor press conference was a little different.

To improve productivity in organizations you need only get leaders out in the field

The controversial Koch brothers wrote a book called the Science of Success (2007). I don’t recommend you read it as it’s one of those books that successful people write where they think they were successful because of these management techniques, whereas it’s more likely that because they were successful they could try out these management techniques (fads of the day?).

According to the ASTD’s 2013 State of the Industry Report, U.S. organizations spent $164.2 billion on employee learning and development in 2012. The report does a good job of categorizing and classifying expenditure. But what about ROI? How can managers structure training to ensure a positive ROI?

How often have you rolled out a new IT project that failed to deliver the desired benefits? Most projects fail to deliver benefits because of poor change management. Little to no attention is paid to the people side.

From the Vault

I MENTIONED to a project sponsor the other days that I was about to do a brainstorming workshop, and she laughed at me saying how “1980’s” the word ‘brainstorming’ was. I don’t know what to call it any more, maybe a more sophisticated word is ‘ideation’.

I’m often asked what I consider to be the most important component in a change management program. For me the answer is easy – the single biggest factor affecting the success of any corporate change program is its leadership. When change is all encompassing, that means the buck really does stop with the CEO.

Corporate culture, promoting from within

Back in July, I discussed how the ability to constantly change had propelled Enterprise to number one position in the global vehicle rental market. The company has been super agile in its approach to change, and it has managed to reshape its workforce from individual through to teams and divisions. In driving change, Enterprise has driven a more engaged and empowered workforce, which has directly led to off-the-scale customer satisfaction numbers.

The success at Enterprise is almost entirely a story of corporate culture.

Be enterprising and change corporate culture

Enterprise changed corporate culture to such an extent that its employees simply don’t want to move. With lower staff turnover, the company’s cost base was reduced and the company’s dynamics changed for the better. Customers received the best service and their loyalty to the company grew: no moving to stay connected with their favourite salesman, for example.

One of the key things that Enterprise did was revolutionise the way its management programs worked. Instead of looking externally for new blood and exceptional managers, Enterprise looked within. This new emphasis engendered enthusiasm for the job and helped to empower its employees to improve toward new targets.

I’ve been asked to revisit this subject, and discuss how to change corporate culture by promoting within.

Benefits of promoting from within

Promoting from within massively reduces costs. You get to remove the cost of recruitment, probably employing a search agency, taking time to vet and interview. The training costs largely fall through the floor, too. Apart from these obvious cost side benefits, here are three other major benefits of a policy that actively seeks to identify your managers and leaders from within your business rather than look externally:

  • Current employees sprint straight out of the blocks

People inside your company know and understand the business, its people, and the organisational structure. There will be no bedding-in period, no time required to get to learn how to get things done. If you want a manager to really hit the ground running, then an insider will be out of the blocks immediately. He or she will have the internal knowledge, experience of products and company technology, and existing relations with customers to make a huge impact straight away.

  • Promote from within and retain your best people

You want people to want to work for you for a long time. Strangely, people want the same thing! Provide the opportunity to advance within your organisation, and the best people – those who are already motivated to overachieve – will want to stay. People move companies to further their career: provide the potential to do so within a single organisation and you’ll retain your top grade staff.

  • No mistaken promotions

There are numerous stories of hiring externally and then being disappointed with the results. Sometimes these mistakes are high profile – Ron Johnson at J.C. Penney, for example.

When you hire from within, you know exactly what you are getting. You know the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, ambitions, and history. You know they are reliable, and that you can depend upon them. Your people know them, respect them, and are happy to work with and for them. Your new manager is, after-all, one of them.

And don’t forget. When you hire from within, you are reinforcing the new corporate culture as one of challenge, promotion, and career advancement.

5 steps to creating a career culture in your organisation

Creating the corporate culture that benefits all stakeholders – customers, employees, and the company – is partly about providing your people with career potential. That’s why I call this the career culture.

Enterprise used a range of methods, techniques, and tools to achieve this. These included:

  • League tables of branches, geographies and individuals
  • Performance metrics were visible, easily measured, and viable.
  • Customer satisfaction statistics: customer satisfaction became the number one goal of all career-minded employees

Enterprise wanted to encourage to join the organisation and then remain engaged. Here are five steps to do the same in your organisation:

1) Ask your people what they think of their colleagues

Who better to tell you what your people are like than their peers?

2) Reward your managers for promoting their employees

Challenge current managers to find their new team leaders from within. Require them to push their people to grow professionally. Find a way to reward your managers for finding your next wave of leadership.

3) Create management innovation teams

Look at your best leaders, and give them something to do! Get them away from the day-to-day routine, and move them to a more strategic focus. Create innovation groups and challenge your managers to create the new ways that will propel your organisation forward. These groups should naturally be looking to bring in talent from inside your organisation, and this will help identify your future.

4) Invest in management training and coaching

Build your own management and leadership training programs, and invest as much money in coaching as you do in hiring.

5) Instigate a ‘free management’ day

Make one day each month a management day. Get all your leaders together, and discuss good practice, team building, and organisational structure. Let strategy develop, and watch the creative juices flow.

Identify your managers from within, and watch your business develop as your new corporate culture empowers your people and produces all the benefits it promises.

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