(the second in an ongoing series exploring the changing nature of leading change)
Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge. ~ Winston Churchill
I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
Lost in the Weeds
Change can feel overwhelming to anyone – especially to those who feel unprepared for it yet feel responsible for ensuring everything turns out all right. And that’s completely understandable. After all, when you really dig into it, major change will always reveal a tangle of issues, overlapping imperatives, and compounding implications… As a result, it naturally feels easier to simply avoid thinking about it.
Of course, avoidance and denial are never the most useful of strategies in dealing with reality. And the need for change is a reality! So after overcoming the impulse to ignore it, the next logical step is to work to understand it.
Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about change. As a society, we’ve studied it, experimented with it, lived it, analyzed it and philosophized about it. There is no shortage of dissertations, articles, inquiries, courses, and case studies explaining the “why, what, when and how” of change. The problem is not that we have too little information to work with, but too much – and it generally winds up feeling like yet another source of overwhelm!
So the next impulse is to find some outside “expert” or “authority” to tell you what to do. Apart from costing an arm and a leg, you can never be entirely certain that they really “get” your situation, or that they aren’t simply trotting out a cookie-cutter solution for it. And if you turn to one of the bigger firms, you’re inviting a veritable army of outside consultants to set up camp into your world – a disruption all its own.
Getting to the Essence of the Work
Fortunately, you don’t have to become an expert in all the variables and nuances involved in change; nor do you have to relinquish your leadership to some faceless legion of outsiders. Change leadership is something you can put in a context that is both useful and meaningful for you. And as you build your sense of familiarity through direct personal experience, you will have the confidence to lead change as it is called for, manage change as needed, and catalyze change when it is strategically appropriate.
Stratton Consulting Group’s Change Leadership Model (CLM) provides a clear, realistic view to the key phases and leadership actions of change. Regardless of the specific organization or circumstances involved, this model is a tool that can inform and guide you as a leader, and support your people in defining and implementing meaningful, intentional and positive change.
The model is organized by the three basic phases of change leadership: Preparation, Engagement, and Reinforcement. Within these three phases are 10 key leadership actions, giving you a clear map forward on how to plan for and implement your change.
In this blog post, we will simply provide you with the skeletal overview of the CLM. In subsequent postings, we will start to walk through the basic elements of the model.
Phase 1: Preparation
Experience has taught us that people don’t resist change; they resist being changed. By first building collective understanding and awareness, you can shift people’s expectations and prepare them for the new levels of communication, coordination and commitment required for meaningful and sustainable success. And by crafting a compelling vision of what reality will look like on the other side of the change, you give people a context within which they can develop their own personal sense of aspiration and commitment.
This phase requires you to let go of familiar beliefs, expectations and assumptions, and commit to a more systematic/disciplined and objective inquiry into reality and possibility. Your leadership efforts will not only guide organizational plans and decisions, but also serve as a model for people throughout the organization to do the same. It will bring new levels of precision to how people look at, think about, and relate with the challenges and opportunities of their jobs.
There are four basic leadership actions included in this phase:
- Determine the primary driver of change
- Establish awareness of the need for change
- Create a vision for the change
- Frame the transition
Together, these first four leadership actions create a solid foundation that will support the success of every phase, every step that follows.
Phase 2: Engagement
Once you’ve created a solid foundation, it’s time to work on fully engaging the hearts and minds of the people who must actually implement the change! In this phase, your work is focused on creating a sense of “shared ownership” in the change effort.
In building the critical mass of aligned attention, energy, and resources required for success, the key is to keep people focused on the things that matter most – managing their expectations and continuously building positive momentum. In the midst of change, it is always important to routinely check your assumptions, remain sensitive to the impact of your efforts, and be prepared to adjust your plans, messaging, and expectations as necessary. And it is vital that others feel a responsibility for doing the same.
There are three basic leadership actions included in this phase:
- Inform all stakeholders of the case for change
- Determine the impact of the transition
- Identify transition progress and success
Together, these three leadership actions provide the traction and momentum required for building toward the vision of successful transformation.
Phase 3: Reinforcement
If you don’t change the underlying organizational structures and dynamisms to reinforce the changes, progress can easily be lost or even reversed. In this phase, your work is focused on ensuring that these “underlying structures and dynamisms” reflect the continuing needs of the changes you’ve implemented, promoting the sustainability of your successes.
As in the two previous phases, it’s important to maintain open feedback channels so you remain informed about the dynamic realities of your operating environment as well as the real impact of your efforts.
There are three basic leadership actions included in this phase:
- Make it easy to adapt to the change
- Promote the positive impact of the change
- Align the change with systems, structures, and practices
Change never really ends; it’s always on the move. These three leadership actions will not only imbed the changes you have made, but keep your organization in a position to quickly recognize and respond to whatever future contingencies may arise.
We will drill deeper into each of these elements of the CLM in future posts. But again, if you’re impatient to learn more, there’s no need to wait! Click on the “contact us” button in our website navigation bar to initiate an introductory conversation that will help move you – and your organization – closer to developing your own capacity for effective change leadership.