The message this month that top corporate giants continue in shedding their workforce does not come as welcome news. Joining the major auto manufacturers and large financial houses are the technology brand names IBM, Microsoft and Intel. With thousands of jobs vanishing in these industries, further pressure is put on their suppliers and distribution channels all along the value chain.
How is your organization weathering the financial storm? What changes do you plan to put in place? Will you be shedding staff, consolidating departments or locations, renegotiating contracts, looking for new market niches or divesting market segments? With this change, will you be bringing your people along with you with a sense of hope or leaving them behind with feelings of abandonment and resentment? Your approach can mean the difference between surviving and crashing. Our article this month reveals the key competencies you will need as a successful change agent. It also highlights the core change management activities on which you will need to concentrate if you want to see positive results from your efforts. Following the article are two key resources to help you along the way. Make sure that you check them out.
So, You Want to Be a Change Leader
You may have been selected by your executive to initiate and see through some change program in your organization. Or you may have decided that the time has come to make your mark by dusting off the cobwebs in your workplace. However your change role came about, you have a challenging task ahead of you.
Consider this sobering thought. In spite of the importance of successfully implementing workplace change for maintaining your business’s competitiveness, most change initiatives fail to deliver the expected organizational benefits. This failure occurs for a number of reasons:
Do you recognize one or more of these in your organization from previous initiatives? You have probably experienced already one major cost of such failure. The cynical and burned out employees left behind only make the next change objective even more difficult to accomplish. It should come as no surprise that the fear of managing change and its impacts is a leading cause of anxiety in managers.
- absence of a change champion or one who is too junior in the organization
- poor executive sponsorship or senior management support
- poor project management skills
- hope rested on a one-dimensional solution
- political infighting and turf wars
- poorly defined organizational objectives
- change team diverted to other projects
Your first step in becoming a successful change leader is fully understanding your organization and matching the initiative to your organization’s real needs. This means not just adopting the latest management fad. Recognize that bringing about useful and meaningful change is fundamentally about changing people’s behavior in certain desired ways. It is not primarily about installing a new system or rearranging the organizational structure. If people in the end do not behave and work differently, then the money and time spent in “doing stuff” is wasted.
You will see from the above list of reasons for failure that lack of technical expertise is not the main impediment to successful change. Leadership and management skills, such as visioning, prioritizing, planning, providing feedback and rewarding success, are key factors in any successful change initiative. Concentrate on these skills that will help you get people on board and to keep them on board for the life of the project and beyond. Get your mentor or a training consultant to perform an honest gap analysis on your skill set and then get the coaching or training that you need.
Whatever change program you are implementing, one key area in which you need to pay close attention is the identification and management of your change program stakeholders. A stakeholder is any person with an interest in the change process or the outcome of your proposed change. Be politically savvy. Your stakeholders will bring a mix of competing interests and will often act to further their own power, influence and survival. An added challenge for you as change leader is that such political maneuvering is often disguised as impartial and rational argument. Think about who are your major stakeholders. Think about what you will say to them to get each of them on side. When you have done that, write up a stakeholder communication plan and make sure you follow through.
Another essential activity you would do well to not neglect is setting clearly defined and measurable objectives. Goal setting done well engages stakeholders and commits them to the program. Other benefits include focusing effort to where it is important and providing a yardstick for measuring program success. Are your program’s goals fuzzy and hard to put a finger on, or are they specific and measurable? Do they link to the strategic objectives of your organization? Get all of the key stakeholders to work with you in devising the goals that will define the success of your program. Getting their input during the initial stages will give them a genuine “stake” in your program.
© 2008 Leslie Allan
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Change Management Resources
How is your change program progressing? Is everybody on board and moving forward, or is it stuck in a rut. Use our Change Program Health Check to diagnose problems you may be experiencing and to ward off potential problems that may be lurking, getting ready to bite you. The eighteen-point checklist helps you focus on the critical activities proven to be essential for success. Download the complimentary Change Program Health Check at www.businessperform.com/ChangeProgramHealthCheck.pdf
Our second helpful resource is our change management guide, Managing Change in the Workplace. This guide is not your usual book on managing successful change. As well as highlighting the key principles and activities underlying effective organizational change with practical examples, this guide is packaged with a workbook. Using the workbook, you will apply the lessons learned immediately to your current change initiative. What can be more practical than that –learning whilst doing! You can download the guide and workbook today using our secure online processing system –and pay with any one of fifteen international currencies. To find out more and to download now, visit the Managing Change in the Workplace product page at www.businessperform.com/html/managing_change.html
If you need assistance with planning or implementing your change initiative, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Experienced consultants are ready to help you make the most of your change program.
Be sure to pass this newsletter on to friends and colleagues who want to stay up with what’s on. From all of us here on the Business Performance team, we wish you a productive month and look forward to communicating with you again soon.
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