Many excellent change initiatives never get off the ground, stagnating just when they should be flowering. Why, after an enthusiastic start, do so many major change efforts—a new product rollout, international expansion, a new IT system—founder and organizations return to the pre-change state? It’s because companies focus disproportionately on the structure and technical aspects of the initiative itself, and not on showing employees a “truth” that motivates them, at a very basic human level, to invest them in the change.
The most logical and well-designed strategy for change, if not centered on people, is doomed to remain just an elusive goal described by a distant management team. A successful change program links the logical—”here’s a great new IT system that will enhance your productivity”—to the emotional: “Your team could spend all night tabulating this stack of paper. Or you can use the new database and be out by 6 p.m.” Abandoned change strategies typically suffer from a lack of balance between the “analyze-think-act” side of the brain and the “see-feel-act” side of the brain.
Hard-nosed business decisions can be made more effectively, and executed far more smoothly, if human behavior is considered in equal measure with the strategy and operating model. In order to forge fundamental change in a complex organization, managers must focus on the human side of implementing change—what we call “organizational change leadership”—as much as the hard analytics behind the change.
The more senior the leader of the change process is in the organization, the better chance the change effort has of succeeding. If the owners of the change process are buried in the middle management, this signals that the change itself is not highly valued, reducing the chances of it succeeding. The reality is that any successful change effort must be initiated at the highest ranks of the organization, and any team assembled from there will have less trouble making the case for change and articulating the vision.
Company executives must be able to master critical organizational change leadership practices in order to effectively manage the change process. These practices are summarized in our white paper The People Imperative: Engaging Employees to Drive Strategic Business Initiatives, and are as follows:
- Understand the nature of change
- Leverage change vanguards
- Communicate the change
- Create a sense of urgency
- Manage employee resistance
- Deal with employees’ emotions
- Provide a vision for the future
To read more, click here to download the white paper The People Imperative: Engaging Employees to Drive Strategic Business Initiatives (PDF)