Spring boarding off of our previous post about engaging people around the work, it’s important to recognize that achieving new and improved ways of completing that work requires change.
But despite the fact that change is a critical component of growth and ongoing success, it is not always perceived as being good. In organizations of all types, people tend to look with skepticism at innovations and new methods, processes, policies and procedures; and people at all levels sometimes cringe at the suggestion that there might be a different or better way to do their jobs!
Yet without change comes stagnation and potential loss. Examples include: Converse in sneakers or Kodak in photography, each experiencing significant declines in market share and profits as competitors introduced new and improved, lower-cost alternatives.
The first step in any change effort is to help people develop the right mental attitude and understand that change is a constant part of long-term success — a readiness for change. This step typically involves assessment, positioning, and establishing “why” change is necessary (and good!).
Additional steps that can help people prepare for and embrace change include:
Making continuous improvement a permanent part of your corporate culture…that gets people at all levels to change the way they think, talk, work, and act
Establishing new perspectives on work, work processes and value-added work
Effectively using various statistical tools to identify, analyze, understand and communicate variation
Enlisting the help of people operating the work processes
Quantifying how continuous improvement benefits all stakeholders
Improving leadership and coaching skills that lead to increased employee engagement
The goal in successful change efforts is not only a change in how people think, but also a change in how they feel about the changes you’re trying to make. As John Kotter, a recognized pioneer in leading change put it, “The most successful change initiatives involve winning over both minds and hearts.”
You may be familiar with John Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, and the founder of Kotter International, a management consulting firm based in Seattle and Boston. He is a thought leader in business, leadership, and change.
He is known for speaking passionately about the difference between “managing” change and “leading” change.
“Management makes a system work,” Kotter explains. “It helps you do what you know how to do. Leadership builds systems or transforms old ones.”
Kotter is also well known for his 8-step process for leading change. Here is a graphic depiction:
“In a change process of any kind you must win over the hearts of people and the minds of people,” Kotter is famous for saying. “The most effective change efforts are able to get people to not only think differently, but also feel differently about the initiative.”
Recent posts have focused on various aspects of the rapid pace of change that permeates our world, our lives and businesses.
And while people generally accept the fact that change is, in fact, a constant and necessary factor, most of us struggle with applying the logic. Instead, we tend to resist change.
One way leaders can better manage the process of helping people deal with change is the Prosci ADKAR® Model, which is a goal-oriented approach to change management for individuals and organizations.
The ADKAR® Model was created by Jeff Hiatt, founder of Prosci, a change management solutions provider. It is an acronym that represents the five “tangible and concrete outcomes that people need to achieve for lasting change.”
These outcomes or steps are:
Awareness of why change is necessary
Desire or a willingness to support the change (often requires steps 3-5)
Knowledge of how the change will be made
Ability to apply or work within the change, possibly through skill development
Reinforcement to help make the change stick
This approach has proved to be an effective way for leaders to both facilitate change and support team members (and possibly themselves!) throughout the process.
Many people say they would like to make their organizations more agile, but few organizations have a formalized strategy to do so.
For many leaders, the planning and management methods mastered on their way up the ladder were designed and effective in a different time, when change moved at a much slower pace. Others, as noted in our previous post, might lean more toward the entrepreneurial side, exhibiting high-levels of vision and enthusiasm, but not the team-building or other managerial skills necessary to develop a truly agile environment; and others may simply fail to stay the course.
To gain agility, today’s leaders must incorporate these four “agility enablers” into their operating model:
Fast and effective information flows so their enterprise can emulate Wayne Gretzky and “just skate to where the puck is going to be.”
Strong leadership and teamwork to turn insight into action; people at all levels must be engaged, involved, and accepting of ongoing change.
Relentlessly streamlined and simplified processes in order to handle the more rapid pace of implementation. If the processes that comprise the value stream are held together by patches, expediting, and human vigilance, or are full of inspection, rework, delays, over-specification, redundancies, excess inventory, complexity, etc. it will be very difficult to execute the necessary changes.
Flexible investments, as acceleration of change makes acquired assets obsolete faster, so both the investment and hiring strategy should reflect the need for flexibility.
Several previous posts have focused on the importance of change, and on the fact that effective leadership is about driving change. The ability to anticipate, lead and manage change is a critical indicator of organizational success and is a necessary component of continuous improvement.
But, as we’ve also noted, people tend to resist change. It is uncomfortable, and tends to bring about varying degrees of fear, uncertainty and doubt – or, as noted in a recent post, a range of challenging emotions.
A heightened awareness of the “normal” reactions to change can help leaders more easily manage change and lead people toward acceptance in less time. For example, when a major change is initiated it is common for members of the workforce think or wonder:
The way we’ve always done it is fine… why do we need to change?
Why wasn’t I consulted?
Why do I need to change my way of doing things?
What have I done wrong? I’ve done nothing wrong!
How will this affect me…?
They don’t know what they’re doing!
This will never work…
What are they trying to achieve?
Will I be able to adapt/fit in?
Recognizing that the above-listed questions are more the rule rather than the exception, leaders and managers might be able to address the true concerns of their workforce and implement change and improvement initiatives more efficiently.
We will share additional thoughts on leading and managing change in our next post… in the meantime, maybe you would like to share some success stories about how your organization has been able to effectively present and manage change?
In a recent discussion about whether or not it is truly possible to sustainably change the culture of a business and its workforce, a number of interesting perspectives were exchanged that support the above-listed threads.
Here are just a few:
“I believe that it begins at the top, however that must continue so that the new culture begins to take shape at all levels. The important thing to understand that culture change is an evolutionary process since it involves changing the thinking processes in addition to any operational process changes that need to be made.”
“I do believe with the right will, structure and drive at senior management level it is possible [to sustainably change an organization’s culture…]. But, can you change every individual and encourage them to walk the company line? I don’t believe you can and I think it is naive to think so. There will be people at all levels who cannot adjust. It brings to mind the old Dolly Parton quote, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
“Yes, it can be done. But I have seen that leadership and staff often delay changes when they have the option. One way to avoid this tendency to procrastinate and to accelerate change is to introduce a large disruption to the status quo, such as change in top leaders, massive resource change (e.g., funds – up or down), or competitive pressures in products, distribution methods, etc.”
Challenges and best practices associated with continuous improvement