Understand the culture and its flexibility first.
Change is an ongoing capability for today’s organization. But what’s the best way to manage changes? Is change always driven from top-down? Can employees ignite a "case for change" and help sow the seeds for transformation especially If there is a lack of transformational leadership at the top?
Diagnose the change dilemma via asking a set of questions: What level of transformation are we seeking here? Functional level or the entire company?Why is there lack of transformational leadership at the top? (Root Cause) Which of your stakeholders agree with you on the need for transformation? Why? Can a coalition be formed with those at the top that agree? Can you articulate "what's in it for them" with those who do not agree? Why does it not resonate with them? What do customers feel about the transformation (high level)? What impact will it have on them? Are any of the customers willing to assist in making a case for transformation? Is there anything that can be done to strengthen the case for the leaders? Perhaps share a high-level end-to-end picture of the “to-be-state”? Do you have the stamina, courage, will, motivation to help move this forward and influence the leaders? That’s the set of question that requires some serious thought, as the ramifications are huge…
A visionary or transformational leader emerges. Visionary leaders spend the present preparing for what they believe they will be doing or needing in the future. Visionaries are good at making predictions by building accurate conceptual models that are based on their understanding of current affairs, coupled with their enhanced decision-making abilities, these predictions allow visionaries to create the future. Despite the fact that there is a clear line between influencing and predicting what is to come, having the ability to predict is important for, and helpful in, influencing the future. Either an existing leader or manager who supports the change and can socialize it at the right level or someone from the ranks steps up to be the focal point and take on that task, change leadership is crucial. However, in a lot of organizations, particular well-established one become stagnant after wonderful growth stories, mostly in such organization the core team has been with the organization for a period of time, and as the company becomes stagnant so do the profiles of these multi-tasking go-getters. Mostly it happens NOT because of lack of visionary or transformational leadership, but more about leadership and the whole pack now gets into the "peaceful-comfort zone," and no one wants to take further risks anymore. Starting transformation at the grass-root level can be very daunting but may be the only option if there is a lack of transformational leadership at the top. Change doesn't happen overnight, but neither did the current situation. One can sit around and wait for so called 'leadership' to wake up and tell them change is necessary and what to change and when. Or, every employee can empower themselves to make one small change to make their daily work environment better, more productive, more pleasant, share that experience with others and trust that others will do the same. Sometimes all a person needs is to be reminded that they do in fact hold the power to change within themselves.
It is dependent on the company culture. If the company has an entrepreneurial spirit the change can be driven from any level as long as there is the ability to build a consensus to a large enough group. If the company is bureaucratic and political then change will not occur unless there is buy-in from the top leadership. A lot of ideas start at a functionally lower level in the organization, but practically speaking if there is no executive sponsorship then the Change will not be implemented. To get management to notice and move on a transformational change, you must show the clear improvement to the bottom line for the company. Since very few employees at the lower level of the hierarchy are aware of the true cost / benefit to the company, it is extremely difficult to prove the point to a leadership team. Another question worth asking is: Do enough organizations really encourage their employees to step up and propose bold transformational change initiatives and then ask management to follow through?. What do those organizations look like? Openness, transparency, collaboration, empowerment, respect for the value of people and adding value to the enterprises, is best for everyone. The key then is to concentrate on how you can get others to "buy in." Finding ways to overcome hubris/arrogance, egos, the nod-squad and not-invented-here syndrome.
It addresses a process first and foremost. This can eventually lead to cultural change, but attempt to address an entire culture or paradigm is the wrong way to address changes from the bottom up. Focus on one small process as an example and then leverage from there. Too many times change initiatives think too big and the change involves too many people and too many decisions necessary to effect that change and then nothing really happens. One process change leads to another and then another and before you know it the teams are all tied up in knots and at a stalemate. Start small, one person can change. Share the difference that change has made and before you know it another person is following. Collaborate, communicate, hold the difficult discussions on what isn't working and what you are willing to do to make it better. Make the commitment to yourself and your fellow team members and then hold yourself and others accountable. Before you know it, you are changing, the team is changing, bring more people into the circle of change over time. It must have win-win in that the majority benefit but so too does the organization.
Understand the culture and its flexibility first. If the culture is high in change adaptability, in these companies with leaders who are predisposed to transformational change, people who present good ideas with a clear idea of how to turn it into profit dollars for their company are listened to and rewarded. Get support from those with influence and in the decision-making chain. Understand the burning platform that might be required to determine resistance for your change and what it will take (resources, time, money) before you start. Meanwhile, initiate change and start implementing the same at a certain level so that when the leadership is mentally prepared to start thinking about changing "something," you can follow up your case with results.