Thursday, October 22, 2015

How Much do Senior Leaders need to support Change Management

With proactive support and full engagement of top leaders, Change Management can become an enjoyable voyage to discover the new landscape of business.

Change is a volatile subject, just like change itself. Everything changes continuously by following the laws of evolution, and the rate of change is accelerated. Corporate change can be a simple modification of strategy, a business process improvement or a more radical digital transformation. Generally speaking, how much do senior leaders need to support Change Management?

No doubt you need advocates at all levels, but the top is absolutely critical: Everyone has to contribute value. We are all leaders and followers, managers and employees, staff and volunteers, men and women; regardless of the labels we are all one connected humanity. Being a genuine leader means that just because I have the power/authority, does not mean I have the right to abuse that power/authority. When we take away our titles, labels, degrees, and certificates; we are just people coming together trying to make a difference in the world and want to be treated with integrity and respect. So "the leaders" need to model expected behavior and intentions every day because change doesn't keep a schedule.  For a radical business transformation, Change Management must be sponsored from the top. It is a critical success factor in that attainment of the goals.

The weak support from senior leaders is the most common reason for failure: Sometimes key leaders actually do not support a change and actively undermine that change. More often than not, however, leaders do support the change but radically under-estimate the importance of their active and visible support for the change. Many seem to believe that if they make the decision to implement the change then the rest can be left to the project team. Nothing is further from the truth. Senior leaders need to understand that they must carry the brunt of the responsibility for communication with the organization. They must actively tear down barriers and secure necessary resources throughout the change process.

Senior leaders need to gain an in-depth understanding of changes, especially at the strategic level: Change is supposed to happen. Resistance is supposed to happen. However, many senior leaders honestly don't understand what their role is, don't want to discuss publicly due to the criticism they will get. This is not resistance. Likewise, senior executives that question the validity of a change or of the approach to change may not be resistance either. It may well be a lack of understanding. Often change leaders assume a key stakeholder is "resisting" when, in fact, they simply want to feel comfortable with the approach. When a remediating action is taken, the executive feels compelled to stop asking legitimate questions about the approach and the process ends up with groupthink. It is also important that attention is paid to the intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of dealing with change. Technology is implemented by the teams working on the projects and if they are effectively equipped to deal positively with the changes taking place the process will be slow and could be much more painful than anticipated.

It is nevertheless true that the change itself has become unpredictable and evolutionary, as compared to treading through carefully laid down road-map - as it was done even a decade ago. A digital organization with strong change capability is an environment of growth and letting go, possibilities, chaos, solutions, innovation, creativity, and change are interconnected. People, relationships, systems thrive in this type of environment, top leaders are change agent themselves, all relationships need to be cultivated continually, each day and every day. With top management’s proactive support and full engagement, Change Management can become an enjoyable voyage to discover the new landscape of business.


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