Leading Change

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Change doesn't have to be hard...Is leading change difficult? Only if you don’t know what you’re doing. As much as some people want to create complexity around the topic of leading change for personal gain, the reality is that creating, managing and leading change is really quite simple. In fact, catalyzing and leading change isn’t very daunting at all if you understand a few key principles. To prove my point, I’ll not only explain the entire change life-cycle in three short paragraphs, but I’ll do it in simple terms that anyone can understand…

Identifying the Need for Change: The need for change exists in every organization. Other than irrational change solely for the sake of change, every corporation must change to survive. If your entity doesn’t innovate and change with market driven needs and demands it will fail…it’s just that simple. The most complex area surrounding change is focusing your efforts in the right areas, for the right reasons, and at the right times. The ambiguity and risk can be taken out of the change agenda by simply focusing on three areas: 1) your current customers…what needs to change to better serve your customers? 2) potential customers…what needs to change to profitably create new customers? and; 3) your talent and resources…what changes need to occur to better leverage existing talent and resources? 

Leading Change: You cannot effectively lead change without understanding the landscape of change. There are four typical responses to change: The Victim…those that view change as a personal attack on their persona, their role, their job, or their area of responsibility. They view everything at an atomic level based upon how they perceive change will directly and indirectly impact them. The Neutral Bystander…This group is neither for nor against change. They will not directly or vocally oppose change, but neither will they proactively get behind change. The Neutral Bystander will just go with the flow not wanting to make any waves hoping to perpetually fly under the radar. The Critic…The Critic opposes any and all change. Keep in mind that not all critics are overt in their resistance. Many critics remain in stealth mode trying to derail change behind the scenes by using their influence on others. Whether overt or covert, you must identify critics of change early in the process if you hope to succeed. The Advocate…The Advocate not only embraces change, they will evangelize the change initiative. Like The Critics, it is important to identify The Advocates early in the process to not only build the power base for change, but to give momentum and enthusiasm to the change initiative. Once you’ve identified these change constituencies you must involve all of them, message properly to each of them, and don’t let up. With the proper messaging and involvement even adversaries can be converted into allies.

Managing Change: Manging change requires that key players have control over 4 critical elements: 1) Vision Alignment…those that understand and agree with your vision must be leveraged in the change process. Those that disagree must be converted or have their influence neutralized; 2) Responsibility…your change agents must have a sufficient level of responsibility to achieve the necessary results; 3) Accountability…your change agents must be accountable for reaching their objectives, and; 4) Authority…if the first three items are in place, yet your change agents have not been given the needed authority to get the job done the first three items won’t mean much…you must set your change agents up for success and not failure by giving them the proper tools, talent, resources, responsibility and authority necessary for finishing the race.

There you have it; in three short paragraphs I’ve given you the formula for change, and the question now becomes what will you do with it?

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