Accelerating Your Change Efforts

leadershipWith so many organizations undergoing change these days, it’s not surprising that leaders are pulling out all the stops to ensure that they’re successfully adapting and thriving in today’s marketplace.

Culture, strategy, leadership and engagement are often the most common levers being employed to support change and transition. For many leaders, these four domains are viewed as cornerstones to both short- and long-term success. To be successful, companies need to be intentional about each of them and how they align to support one another.

As part of discussions with a prospective client earlier this month, the two company owners asked me which one (strategy, culture, leadership, engagement) they should emphasize since they, and their teams, were really stretched by demanding workloads and limited time.

My initial response would have been something about pushing on all four aspects at roughly the same time. Success comes from the iterative process of moving these pieces forward in a relatively synchronized pattern. But when I asked a few more questions, it became obvious that they really didn’t have a good sense of how they would grow their business or even what the business might look like in the longer term.

leader staff visitClearly, this is a case where a clear and well-articulated strategy is required before even considering other elements like culture, leadership or engagement. As they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, or what you’re hoping to achieve, any result looks like success. And this particular situation was a recipe for significant turmoil, wasted effort and potential failure.

As you work with your leadership teams on your change and transition efforts, here are some suggestions to accelerate your efforts:

1.) Keep Tabs on What’s Happening ‘Out There’

  • Keeping close tabs on what’s happening for your clients, markets and industry as you implement change is key to ensuring relevance and impact. It’s not enough to do this in some sort of ad-hoc fashion: Create a routine to conduct these check-ins consistently and with some rigor.
  • Opportunities, issues, challenges and trends often emerge with little warning and that’s why regular scanning and thoughtful analysis of what’s taking place beyond your own organization is essential.
  • During your change effort, create specific opportunities for your teams to come together on a regular basis to review, discuss and debate what’s going in the world around them and what tweaks are required in your change efforts.

2.) Ensure Your Team is on Board with the Future

  • Having a clearly defined and well-understood future vision, along with an enabling strategy, is essential to successful change. This may include a different business model, entering new markets, creating different product lines or adopting new technologies to grow your business.
  • If you and your leadership team are somewhat ambiguous or not fully aligned around both the vision and strategy, your change and transition efforts will be challenging.
  • Crafting and communicating your vision and strategy is a useful exercise only if you’re willing to revisit and update as necessary. That way you can successfully adapt to and take advantage of what’s going on around you.

3.) Be Aware of How Your Staff are Doing

  • Getting a pulse on staff engagement has become commonplace for many organizations. However, it’s particularly helpful to gather regular information about employee engagement during your change efforts. Once you’re underway with proposed changes, employee engagement levels often dip. It’s important to know which factors can be adjusted to strengthen engagement.
  • Of course, a primary task during change is to keep staff engaged through a range of strategies including regular communications, ongoing consultation, direct staff involvement in change activities, real time training and on-the-job coaching.
  • Be sure to set in place ways to actively solicit feedback from your employees about how the change is progressing – be it online surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings, team huddles or informal conversations.

staff meeting4.) Fine-Tune Your Culture

  • Beyond employee engagement, it’s important that you and your leadership team understand what’s happening in terms of your organizational culture. Staff engagement is heavily influenced by culture so it’s essential to determine if you’ve got the right elements to improve employee performance during and after change.
  • Take advantage of some sort of standardized culture audit or assessment to clearly identify key aspects of your organizational culture. This will enable you to get a much better handle on current strengths and weaknesses in relation to your proposed change.
  • You’ll want to ensure that your culture closely aligns and supports your future vision and strategy – adjustments will likely be required to ensure successful implementation. Aspects such as your organization’s core values, customer relationships, staff interactions and performance expectations may all require fine-tuning.

5.) Leverage Specific Leadership Behaviours

  • leaderIn terms of leadership, identify the critical few leadership behaviours that support and advance your vision, strategy and culture. Some current leadership behaviours may require increased priority while others may need to either change or be discarded altogether.
  • New and different leadership behaviours may also be required to support your new direction. Prioritize the most critical and start developing these within your leadership ranks. Incorporate the behaviours into your performance management process to ensure ‘front and center’ visibility and uptake.

Advancing your change effort can be much more effective by focusing on a few key elements that accelerate progress and ensure greater likelihood of success.

To learn more about determining your current context in relation to these foundational pieces, contact me: scott@cygnusconsultants.com or 250-882-8830.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

User Comments

There is 1 comment on this post.

  1. A very insightful article, Scott. Your advice is equally applicable to government, profit and non-profit organizations.

    Your point about moving all four pieces forward in a synchronized pattern is very much a “Lean” approach which speaks to continuous improvement and good project management. With the restriction on resources, no organization can do it all at once (i.e., “boil the ocean”), but we can all get closer to perfection if we implement change in small manageable chunks.

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