Change Management 101: What Every Change Manager and Change Leader Needs to Know BEFORE Jumping into Implementation

What Every Change Manager and Change Leader Needs to Know Before Jumping into Implementation
Change Management

Are you the leader of a change effort and stuck in the weeds? Have you read the latest Change Management book, but no one seems to be following you? Are you frustrated that your team or your organization seem to have forgotten that you shared your vision with them already?

It could be that you have a sense of your vision but you haven’t defined it in detail. It could be that your vision doesn’t captivate your team. It could be that you are focusing your efforts on creating the perfect plan. It could be that you are all about implementing but haven’t focused on preparing for or planning the change.  This article highlights the important difference between managing change and leading change. I then go on to share the first three keys to successful change.

Leading Change versus Managing Change

Leaders don’t force people to follow them; they invite people on a journey. (Charles S. Lauer)

In today’s world of on-going change coupled with a scary rate of failure, it is super important to realize, or remember, that there is a massive difference between leading change and managing change.

It is so easy to mix up these two very important roles. For your organization to be successful in your change efforts, you cannot afford to mix up these roles or their responsibilities.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. (Peter Drucker)

The Change Leader is the Captain of the ship, the one who determines WHERE the organization needs to go, and provides the ongoing drive and resources necessary to reach the goal.

The Change Manager is the First Mate, responsible for the crew, overseeing the details of the change voyage and managing the resources; figuring out HOW to get there.

Clear Vision

Without a vision, change can dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible, time-consuming projects that either go in the wrong direction or nowhere at all. (John Kotter, 1996)

Having a clear vision is THE most important part of your change. We need clarity around where we are going – a compelling, comprehensive and clearly-defined change goal.  What will it look like when we are there? What will we need to get there? How are we going to get there?

We need to start sketching in as much detail as we can, as early as we can.  It’s not enough to say we want to be ‘an employer of choice’. It’s not enough to say we need to ‘be a team’. What does that really mean?  It may mean high(er) employee satisfaction rates, measured through satisfaction surveys, absenteeism, sick leave requests, innovation measures, low(er) turnover. It can mean whatever you want it to mean, for your organization and for your stakeholders, but, you have to be clear.

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. (Babe Ruth)

Committed Champion

If you’re a champion, you have to have it in your heart. (Chris Evert)

I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion. (Billie Jean King)

Regardless of the size of your change, you MUST have a champion.  The Champion is the person with the excitement, drive and vision to see you through the difficult times and to celebrate the good times.  The Champion is the person who can speak intelligently and passionately about the change.  The Champion is the person who defines and then supports the resources necessary to achieve the change – yes that means the time, the dollars, and the people.

The primary task of change leaders is NOT making people feel comfortable during change; it is helping them to succeed despite their discomfort. (unknown)

The Champion determines (with input from others of course) whether the change is a business imperative or a good idea. They openly demonstrate and endorse the change. They authorize resources and have the power to both reward and reprimand.

The Champion must be at the top of the ladder for the change.  A manager should NEVER be selected as the champion for an organization-wide change initiative.  They won’t be taken seriously, they won’t have the necessary clout, and they certainly won’t be able to effectively reward or reprimand.  The Champion must have the respect of the people involved in the change.  If not, there will be a lot of lip service paid to their requests, but nothing will really change.

The Champion has to be the model of the change. Whether it is developing a high-performing team or turning a billion-dollar organization around, the Champion sets the tone AND maintains the energy.  If the Champion is paying lip-service to the change, all of the employees will also pay lip-service!

Continuous Communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. (George Bernard Shaw)

Of course, we all know communication is important.  Without communication, you will be relying solely on ESP.  This may work in some circles but, for most of us, we need steady communication, through numerous channels, delivered over and over.  As leaders, we need to repeat our messages over and over and over again.  Why? Because sometimes people just aren’t listening, or they forget, or they aren’t following the details.  As leaders we hate repetition, but it is absolutely critical.  It also serves to show everyone that we are still focused and still committed to the change.  People need to understand where they fit in.  They need to understand why the change is necessary, AND the benefits to them and the organization, AND what’s not changing, AND what the challenges are expected to be.  Tell the whole story!

Change is a disruption of expectations – successful change requires an expectation of disruption. (unknown)

The field of Change Management has been around for years, and there are millions of dollars thrown away every year highlighting that we still don’t understand it. If you and your organization follow the tips in this article, you will be well on your way to being one of the select few that are able to implement a successful change!

About the Author

Sharon Parker

Sharon Parker has demonstrated expertise in individual and organizational development and change management, and has held a number of senior advisory positions within the Canadian federal public service and the private sector. Her firm, CoreShift Inc., specializes in supporting executives in leading individual and organizational change. She holds an Honours B.A. (Psychology) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Queen’s University. Sharon is a facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Change Management program.

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