Creating change is often difficult, expensive, and prone to failure. And as a leader when you initiative the “pet project of the month” over and over again but nothing really changes guess what? You start to look a little like a politician: all mouth and no trousers.
Change is difficult because it’s about new behaviours. And we all know how difficult it is to alter our own habits (drinking less, exercising more or turning the TV off once in a while!) Imagine how much harder it is when you are trying to modify the attitudes and actions of an entire organisation.
Over the years I’ve been involved in the implementation of major change in a variety of businesses. From my experience – and research into good practice – here are six handy tips to help you to become a successful Change Maker.
1. Start Shouting Fire – Many businesses are too inward looking. They don’t listen enough to their clients or know enough about their competitors. An inward-facing mentality can breed complacency, even arrogance. As a leader you need to show your people that the need for change is urgent. If there is not a pressing commercial or operational “fire” in your business (and there normally is) you might need to start it yourself.
2. Get the right people involved, at the right time, during the process – change often starts with one or two people, but making it stick is not a solo sport. To get things going you need to get enough people involved with the expertise and credibility required. And ensure they are working as a team. Change Management is like getting a car started when it’s bogged down in the mud. You need a coordinated, sustained push with as many people involved as you can rope in.
3. Develop a Clear Inspirational Purpose – if it’s not there already start with a rigorous and collaborative development process to find this, then add specific objectives. Anything less is a recipe for confusion and apathy.
4. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate again - It is amazing how many businesses do not communicate effectively. Try this as a test: ask six team members what the fundamental purpose of your business is and see how different their replies are. You might be surprised.
5. Empower Your People – Make sure your team can grab the purpose and make it happen. But empowerment is pointless if it’s just a word. Take a look at your systems, structures and skill levels to make sure the sort of behaviour you want is even possible in your business.
6. Plan for some short term wins – Change is painful and difficult at times and it needs a sustained effort; timelines are normally not weeks but months and even years. To show your team the late nights are worth it make sure the changes you are bringing about delivers short term wins along the way.
Copyright © 2011 Greg Orme All Rights Reserved
With thanks to John P. Kotter’s ‘Leading Change’