Leading change is hard. It is human nature to adjust with regular routines. We love what we do and we want to keep it the way it is for a long period of time. We normally resist the changes. We somehow believe that change would not work for us, and it would create some difficult situations for us. In the process of resistance, we not only dislike the change, but we also dislike the change initiator. The million dollar question is then –how would I lead change in my life, my team and my organization
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. - George Bernard Shaw
It’s been proven that change is happening at every second. Seasons are changing, economy is changing, technologies are changing, neighborhoods are changing, companies and cultures are changing. It appears change is evident, and it is the truth. Then why can’t we adjust with this simple truth? Why is it so hard for us to change?
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. - John F. Kennedy
My research shows that human mind evaluates the change before it accepts it. Example: If I ask my team members to work an extra hours to finish the project, they naturally would not like my request. Before I ask my team to work extra hours, what if I were to provide some context like “our project is behind schedule and not meeting the deadline and we will have severe repercussions or bad consequences. What do you recommend we do to ensure we don’t lag behind? I bet my team members will come up with some creative options, including adding extra hours to the current work schedule”.
The same members if told to work extra hours would not appreciate it, but when they are put in the driving seat and have been offered to make resolution choices will now be open to working extra hours without me suggesting it to them. So what changed? The difference is they are now in control of coming up with a resolution to the problem and offered choices rather than being told what needs to be done. When you are given options to take the initiative and to make a decision, you do not hate it, but if someone else decides on your behalf, they don’t like it. Lessons learned: people don’t like to be dictated to change. They like to be given options and also to evaluate the cost of the change, so that they can either accept or reject the change.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
1) Who leads the change – It’s important to know who is leading the change. If members don’t like the leader, they won’t like his or her message for the change. To lead a change, we would need a respected change leader.
Example: If you ask your kids to do homework in a different manner, I assure you that they will not listen, but if the kid’s teacher asks them to change the way they do homework, I bet they will accept that suggestion and follow their advice without any hesitation. In this situation, Teacher is an effective leader.After knowing this, always appoint an effective leader to lead the change. Effective leaders will implement the changes in a short period of time without any resistance and they would minimize performance dip during the transition phase.
2) Explain to members – Why is change necessary? Provide the team a change context in story form, so it’s easy for members to visualize, remember and help them to make sound decisions.
Example: A product company’s growth was stagnant for many years. One day, the CEO of this company setup a town hall meeting, and in his speech he told a story -- “We are facing a tough competition with the new company – they have better products, better services and better prices than ours. If we don’t change the way we do business, then I am afraid the new company will run over us and we will be out of business in the next few years.”
After this story, people started realizing that the CEO is telling the truth they have to make some changes in product development, product features, services, cost and other processes to differentiate in the market place to win the competition. They felt the changes are essential and they accepted it.
Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster. - Elon Musk
3) Build a collation team – In order for you to lead changes, you would need support from some members. You have to understand which team members adopt to the changes positively or negatively. Those who like changes will always support you. So, build a coalition team with members who embrace changes. The coalition team would be your change agents. They will be your ambassadors to help influence others to adapt to the change. They will portray themselves as pioneer for change. Having change pioneers will help assure others to think if it’s alright to change as well and it will be easier for others to follow thru. Always have team members on your team who are change management agent even if they are small, because they will help lead the change to a bigger group.
When I was working at Sears, I build a small collation team with my lunch buddies. This small team became a change factor to introduce bigger changes with the Sears Home Services culture like: celebrating Halloween event, organizing lunch and learn sessions, and many more. I would not have been as successful to introduce changes if it was not for the collation team. It is quite difficult for one person to create big impact. It’s always easier to move or carry things with a palm with all your fingers rather than using a finger.
Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have. -Margaret Mead
4) Build a success story – Before you introduce a change to a bigger group, you first build a success story by introducing the same change within a smaller group. They could be your pilot group study. See how this group behaves and react to changes, what’s working? And what’s not working? Learn, lead and build a success story. Take this experience and the learning and apply this to a bigger group and your chances of success will be very high. Your confidence of leading the changes would also be very high.
If company wants to try new tools/technology, they should first try it on one project or on one team and see how it works. If it produces positive results, then take this response and penetrate it to other teams or projects. If results are not positive, you should not pursue it further.
5) Sustain the change - It’s important to maintain the benefit of the change for a long period. Once you implement the change positively, make sure you define a policy and governance to support the change initiatives. Without the governance body and the message reiteration, change is not sustainable and people go back to their old way, and the change benefits will eventually fade out.
Example:Manager introduces a mandate that the software team must provide 80% code coverage before they deliver the software to the quality assurance team. Team members would follow the suggested recommandations as it is helping to produce quality software. But if manager changes his or her job, and if there is no governance body, team members would slowly avoid writing unit tests, and 80% code coverage mandate would soon disappear.
The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. - Nathaniel Branden
In summary, for leading change effectively: select an appropriate change leader, communicate your change vision, build a collation team, build a success story, empower your team members, and learn and adapt. If you believe change is essential then never give up, keep taking small but incremental steps till you achieve the desired results.
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