Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Leading successful organizational change is hard but rewarding for both the people and the business. Let me share some of my learnings.
I was once part of a Leadership Team tasked to transform a loss-making, declining business into an accelerated high growth and high earning entity. At that time, few believed that this transformation could be successful, but it it changed the trajectory of our business in a big way and the positive impact is evident till today, more than a decade later.
Here’s are my reflection of some key ingredients of its success:
Support for Right Leader – Great leaders come in many forms and with different strengths. Although most capable leaders can move an organization towards toward success, matching the No. 1 job to the stage of organization development accelerates the speed of success. Some leaders are great in shaping up the business and others are great for accelerating growth after the foundations are in place. Only a few can do very well in all stages of the organisation development. Having a perfect capability match is often not possible, so find the best fit, and invest in supporting the leader well.
One Vision, One Voice - It is not enough to have a vivid, clear vision statement. Trust of the bigger organization is built on consistency of messaging from all members of the Leadership. The formal and informal avenues play its roles in building confidence. This doesn’t mean that leadership team members cannot air differing views – in fact, different perspectives are crucial to the strengthening of any strategy. However, let the debates happen in its right forum, and let the decisions be made. Once the decisions are made, the organization and its leaders are better served by Alignment.
People Engagement – Bringing the whole organization along in any change management process is clearly critical. In my experience, big shifts happen when leaders open the lines of communication with the larger organization, addressing the hopes and fears of the people. An engaged team increases success rates and reduces stress levels in the organization.
Understand the Degree of Change Needed – When the fundamentals are clearly not working, we had a saying: “Go Surgical, Paracetamol can only do so much!”. Here, discernment is important. Sometimes, all the organization needs is a few tweaks to flourish, but leaders need the wisdom to know when they are prolonging inevitable failure - early in the game. It takes wisdom and courage to let go of elements that do not serve and make the necessary shifts for the future.
Stay the Course and Keep Flexible - Once a well-planned blueprint of change is established, it’s good to keep at it, unless an unconsidered factor arises along the way. The full benefits of change take time, and an organization that is in constant restructuring is costly. Recognize the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity and Ambiguous) world, pick your battles, stay flexible and always keeping your eyes on the prize.
There are many other elements in a successful change management process. These few continued to deepen my perspective on leadership impact as I reflect on them through the years.