Change Leadership…3

(the third in an ongoing series exploring the changing nature of leading change)

If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less. ~ General Eric Shinseki

Change before you have to.. ~ Jack Welch

I believe leadership in this company has identified a legitimate need for change

Why change?; What’s driving the change?

It’s easy to be distracted by the sheer number of possible answers – change is everywhere! But a leader needs to be able to identify the forces that are creating the impetus for change. This requires industry knowledge of the current market landscape, trends, and drivers. A focused identification and analysis of the precise indicators with the most significance and impact should be calculated to support the need for change.

Information fuels the fire of logic, reason, and understanding. Once you’ve researched, identified, and articulated the primary driver(s) for change in your unique situation, you’ve established a solid and proven foundation for making sound decisions while leading your organization forward.

How to start that process

Develop, access, and analyze, both internally and externally, a variety of sources of information and insight concerning the current state, trends, and emerging dynamics of the market, industry and organization.

External:

  • Market Research
  • Competitive Intelligence
  • Voice of the Customer
  • Key Partner Relationships
  • Subject Matter Experts/Thought Leaders

Internal:

  • Climate/employee satisfaction surveys
  • Employee Engagement
  • Change Readiness
  • Financial Assessments
  • Business/Executive Assessments

A Great Case in Point

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) had a long and successful history of offering a broad range of theatrical productions to the Denver and the Rocky Mountain Region. Combining access to high-profile, traveling Broadway shows, and the presentation of original theatrical productions, DCPA maintained a national reputation for excellent quality, artistic merit, and innovation in the theatrical arts.

But a few years ago, it was apparent that landscape was beginning to shift and change under their feet. Once reliable sources of major funding began to erode. Ticket sales were beginning to show patterns of uncharacteristic softness. Stand-by marketing strategies were now delivering uneven results. And even a casual observer could see that DCPA’s audiences were becoming older and greyer.

The Marketing Department began an aggressive program of gathering and analyzing a wide variety of data, embracing ticket sales, marketing impact, and audience demographics, as well as a wider assessment of the changing competitive landscape. DCPA was no longer just a big fish in a small pond of theatrical options in the area; it was now in competition for the consumer’s limited discretionary budget for entertainment of all forms – sports, cinema, music, recreation, etc.

Internally, there were indications that some of the departments under the umbrella of the DCPA name felt insulated from the impending challenges, while others felt particularly vulnerable. There were signs of increased fragmentation, contention, finger pointing, and competition for resources among critical functions.

What could have been treated as a “marketing” exercise in exploring ways to refresh branding or improve ticket sales, was instead treated as a strategic inquiry into all of the many forces that combined to put DCPA at risk – not just in terms of maintaining its hard-won sense of artistic freedom and integrity, but in terms of sustaining long-term viability. In order to survive and thrive as a relevant theatrical arts organization, DCPA would need to radically recalibrate its sense of possibility, opportunity … and urgency.

An assessment of existing perspectives and beliefs throughout the various parts of the organization revealed a lack of any unifying sense of shared purpose, stake, and identity. People were focused more on past success than future challenges and opportunities.

Leadership took the brave step of investing in an objective assessment of the uncomfortable realities of DCPA and owning the truth: On its current trajectory, DCPA’s very survival was at risk. And, nobody involved in the organization was willing to see something they cared about so passionately be lost because of old habits and alliances, or organizational inertia. Leadership saw this as a clear call to action.

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