“Leading Change” is clearly more difficult than arriving at the realization that change is needed…If you want to validate the prior statement reflect back on all of the “change agents” that have crossed your path over the years and ask yourself the following question: How many of them have truly succeeded? While we’ve heard a lot about change of late as it relates to our current political landscape, the power of real change is trivialized when it becomes little more than a political sound-bite. Whether in business or in life in general, I have found that change can either be your best friend or your worst nightmare – which is it for you? Nobody ever said change was easy, but it’s critical that you understand that change is essential. In today’s blog post I’ll discuss why CEO’s and entrepreneurs (and not just politicians) need to become masters at catalyzing and leading change.
Why is Change (and Change Management) Important in Today’s Business?
While there is little debate that the successful implementation of change can create an extreme competitive advantage, it is not well understood that the lack of doing so can send a company (or an individual’s career) into a death spiral. Companies that seek out and embrace change are healthy, growing, and dynamic organizations, while companies that fear change are stagnant entities on their way to a slow and painful death.
Agility, innovation, disruption, fluidity, decisiveness, commitment, and above all else a bias toward action will lead to the creation of change. It is the implementation of change which results in evolving, growing and thriving companies. Much has been written about the importance of change, but there is very little information in circulation about how to actually create it. While most executives and entrepreneurs have come to accept the concept of change management as a legitimate business practice, and change leadership as a legitimate executive priority in theory, I have found very few organizations that have effectively integrated change as a core discipline and focus area in reality.
Consider the modern workplace…In executive circles, leaders often talk about employees who are not on-board, resist change, and are reluctant to try new things. And among the ranks of employees, conversations that take place in the hallways and break rooms often center around whether or not executives really know what they’re doing, and whether the newest change initiative is just a passing fad. Actually, these reactions are reasonable, given the pace that change is occurring in most of organizations.
Leading change is certainly not without risk, but if implemented properly it can breathe life back into the most tired business. The most successful companies incorporate disruptive thinking into all of their business and management practices to gain distinctive competitive value propositions. “Me Too” companies fight to eek out market share in an attempt to survive while disruptive companies become category dominant brands insuring sustainability. So why do so many established and often well managed companies struggle with disruptive innovation? Many times it is simply because companies have been doing the same things, in the same ways, and for the same reasons for so long that they struggle with the concept of change.
Change as a Critical Success Factor for Innovation
As a CEO Coach many of my engagements with chief executives focus on helping them to embrace change through disruptive innovation. Why didn’t the railroads innovate? Why didn’t Folgers recognize the retail consumer demand for coffee and develop a “Starbucks” type business model? Why didn’t IBM see Dell and Gateway coming? Why didn’t more established social networks see Twitter coming? How did the brick and mortar book stores let Amazon get the jump on them? I could go on-and-on with more examples, but the answer to these questions are quite simple…The established companies become focused on making incremental gains through process improvements and were satisfied with their business models and didn’t even see the innovators coming until it was too late. Their focus shifted from managing opportunities to managing risk, which in turn allowed them to manage themselves into brand decline…
At one end of the spectrum take a look at the companies receiving investment from venture capital and private equity firms, and on the other end of the spectrum observe virtually any category dominant brand and you’ll find companies with a disruptive focus putting the proverbial squeeze on the “me too” firms occupying space in the middle of the spectrum. The continued rapid development of technology is taking the concept of globalization and turning it into hard reality facing businesses of all sizes, it is time for executives and entrepreneurs to examine their current business models from a disruptive perspective.
Why the Pursuit of Perfection is the Enemy of Change and Change Management
One of my contentions about why change is difficult to implement is that too many executives want perfection to precede action, and the truth is that the pursuit of perfection is one of the great adversaries of speed. In fact, at the risk of being controversial I’m going to take the position that perfection does not exist. I hate to break it to you, but those of you who regard yourselves as perfectionists simply exhibit perfectionistic tendencies in an unrealistic attempt to achieve what cannot be had. The pursuit of perfectionism might lead to small, incremental increases in quality, but at what cost? What the pursuit of perfectionism will cause is time delays, cost overruns, missed deadlines and unkept commitments. I would suggest that rather than seeking what cannot in most cases ever be achieved, that it makes more sense to seek the highest standard of quality that makes economic sense relative to the constraints of an ever shifting marketplace.
Change, Change Management, Agility, Speed, and Reducing Cycle Times
One of the key considerations that must be understood when implementing change is the necessity of moving quickly. There are those that would argue that speed in synonymous with undisciplined decisioning, but I would caution you against confusing speed with reckless abandon I’m a big proponent of planning, assessment, analysis and strategy, but only if it is concluded in a timely fashion. “Analysis Paralysis” leads to missed opportunities and failed initiatives.
Earlier in my career I served as Director of Internet Strategy for what was at that time the world’s largest web-enablement firm. While serving in that position I coined the term e-velocity which we trademarked and used to describe the influence that technology was having on the pace at which business had to be conducted in order to remain competitive. It used to be acceptable to take 12 to 18 months to roll-out an initiative, but in today’s world you better be able to do it in 90 days or it will be obsolete before it gets to market.
When I first started in business it was usual and customary to produce 5 and 10 year business plans and today I work off of rolling 90 day tactical business plans. The latest advances in Business Process Management (BPM) have seen a reduction in the planning and budgeting cycle from 120 and 90 days to 45 days. But, is 45 days good enough? How many days constitute a responsive cycle time? Many believe the right number is between 5 and 10 days. Why is cycle time reduction important? Because shorter planning and budgeting processes facilitate greater flexibility and responsiveness.
In today’s competitive business environment you must quickly be able to assess risk and make timely decisions. You cannot be successful being guided by fear and hesitation. When in doubt, remember that “Speed Kills” and that “he who hesitates is lost.” Don’t fear change…embrace it. I think General George S. Patton said it best: “A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
The original source for this post can be found here: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/leading-change/
Is leading change difficult? Only if you don’t know what you’re doing. As much as some people want to create complexity around the topic of leading change for personal gain, the reality is that creating, managing and leading change is really quite simple. In fact, catalyzing and leading change isn’t very daunting at all if you understand the 3 pillars of change. To prove my point, I’ll not only explain the entire change life-cycle using the 3 pillars of change in three short paragraphs, but I’ll do it in simple terms that anyone can understand…
Identifying the Need for Change:
The need for change exists in every organization. Other than irrational change solely for the sake of change, every corporation must change to survive. If your entity doesn’t innovate and change with market driven needs and demands it will fail…it’s just that simple. The most complex area surrounding change is focusing your efforts in the right areas, for the right reasons, and at the right times. The ambiguity and risk can be taken out of the change agenda by simply focusing on three areas: 1) your current customers…what needs to change to better serve your customers? 2) potential customers…what needs to change to profitably create new customers? and; 3) your talent and resources…what changes need to occur to better leverage existing talent and resources?
You cannot effectively lead change without understanding the landscape of change. There are four typical responses to change: The Victim…those that view change as a personal attack on their persona, their role, their job, or their area of responsibility. They view everything at an atomic level based upon how they perceive change will directly and indirectly impact them. The Neutral Bystander…This group is neither for nor against change. They will not directly or vocally oppose change, but neither will they proactively get behind change. The Neutral Bystander will just go with the flow not wanting to make any waves hoping to perpetually fly under the radar. The Critic…The Critic opposes any and all change. Keep in mind that not all critics are overt in their resistance. Many critics remain in stealth mode trying to derail change behind the scenes by using their influence on others. Whether overt or covert, you must identify critics of change early in the process if you hope to succeed. The Advocate…The Advocate not only embraces change, they will evangelize the change initiative. Like The Critics, it is important to identify The Advocates early in the process to not only build the power base for change, but to give momentum and enthusiasm to the change initiative. Once you’ve identified these change constituencies you must involve all of them, message properly to each of them, and don’t let up. With the proper messaging and involvement even adversaries can be converted into allies.
Managing change requires that key players have control over 4 critical elements: 1) Vision Alignment…those that understand and agree with your vision must be leveraged in the change process. Those that disagree must be converted or have their influence neutralized; 2) Responsibility…your change agents must have a sufficient level of responsibility to achieve the necessary results; 3) Accountability…your change agents must be accountable for reaching their objectives, and; 4) Authority…if the first three items are in place, yet your change agents have not been given the needed authority to get the job done the first three items won’t mean much…you must set your change agents up for success and not failure by giving them the proper tools, talent, resources, responsibility and authority necessary for finishing the race.
The original source for this post can be found here: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/leading-change-isnt-hard/
Re-posted with author Mike Myatt’s permission, he runs a great blog at http://www.n2growth.com/blog/
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- leading change management