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Principles for Leading Change and Transition Management – Part A

In my book S.E.T. for Success: a roadmap to transform your business, I talk about a common element on the strategic agenda of the organization. It often concerns the investment you plan to
make in your people and the culture of the organization as a whole. This means effectively managing a specific key business impact zone – people and culture.

People: In the workplace, it’s important to have the right people with the appropriate skills, the right level of experience, and the ability to learn. Every business has to keep up with the breakneck speed of change in their field, and the ability to learn and be adaptable is now paramount to success.

Culture: The culture of an organization is about its beliefs, values and attitude. Every individual in your business has a set of beliefs and values, and an attitude that encompasses them. What we’re looking for here is whether or not these beliefs, values, and attitude are appropriate for your business.

In the absence of strong leadership, clear direction, guidance, and structure, your people will create their own culture. It’s far better for the leadership to set the tone for the culture and create a place where people want to work, rather than letting things run their own course.

Ultimately, as a business leader, you need to create a culture where people are all rowing in the same direction, where change and transition management are not after thoughts but part of the strategic planning process. Here are five ideas that may help you with your change and transition management in your organization as you travel the road to your success.

  1. Lead with the Culture: In your business culture is everything. I think most people know this but are challenged when implementing change. It is human nature to maintain their existing rules and therefore, culture. Skill change management means taking the existing culture into consideration when devising a transformational approach. You need to address the present culture in order to become something new.
  2. Forgo the Bottom: A lot of organizations will use a bottom up approach to create change. Unfortunately that does not work well. Great societies have failed due to this approach. Real change starts at the top. The challenge is that the senior people need to be on board, agree and aligned. Often having to weigh conflicting points of view. Ultimately you want to work collaboratively, let go your ego and commit to the change. You may find it changes you.
  3. Get Levels involved: I often see leaders plan at that strategic level only to leave out the tactical and operational levels of the organization. This is a bad idea. Front line people have a lot to offer. They are rich in information, ideas and solutions. Sometimes providing great strategic insight. As a business leader you need to free yourself of the notion that your team knows everything. They don’t. If you involve a diverse team you gain greater understanding and an invested team in the success of the organization. That is a big win.
  4. Developing Your Case: People and culture make changes because they are emotionally connected to the need for transition. Business objectives don’t cut it when it comes to people. Your team wants to feel that they are part of something that is real important, that they can connect with and has a call to action that they can get behind, and support with their minds and hearts.
  5. Engage and Engage Some More: This is all about communications. Planning and implementation requires a solid communication plan that is implemented correctly. There are two mistakes I see leaders make when it comes to engaging people and communications. The first mistake they make is deciding not to create a communication plan or creating a partial communication plan thinking it is good enough and, the second mistake is thinking they conveyed a strong message, that people will understand it and know what to do. Only one word comes to mind here – wrong. Change and transition require constant communication at a level that is deeper than most leaders are not willing to go. All initiatives require communications during the rollout, as milestones are reached and important elements are in place. Sometimes the communication needs to reach the hearts of the teams. Penetrating the organization’s soul so that the transformation takes life and lives in the people of the organization. That is real cultural change.

Change and transition management is a huge topic that requires further exploration. That is why I called this article Part A. Ultimately I think it starts with understanding the difference between people and culture within the organization, what it is you need to achieve and then figuring out how to best achieve it. It does mean engagement at all levels and creating an emotional case that defies business logic. That is what connects people to the cause, the direction that has been set on the strategic agenda of the organization, and the implementation of the road map to your success.

Stay tuned to Part B in the coming weeks.

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Richard Lannon
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