Effective leaders have the ability to implement long-term change in an organization. It is a key skill that will enhance the company’s ability to compete in the future and increase its performance. Knowing how to help others understand the reasons for change, leverage the advantages of change, and manage the risks associated with change are all fundamental to success.
Successfully leading others through the change process is not an easy task. Some people will always have a tendency to view change in a negative light. Change comes with the loss of a familiar way of doing things. Individuals who are comfortable relying on past experience may feel less secure or uncomfortable knowing that they’ll need to develop new skills to move forward.
Great leaders know how to help people move through the discomfort that comes with change and appreciate the benefits associated with doing business in a new way. They help people understand that change comes with a price, but that over the long run, remaining stagnant comes at a much greater cost.
There are six steps that leaders use to implement lasting change in organizations:
Step 1 – Prepare for Change
First, leaders prepare for change. Knowing that the world will never remain the same, leaders collect information and analyze the strengths and vulnerabilities of the business on an ongoing basis. This helps them anticipate emerging trends in the marketplace.
Thinking about the future and keeping an open mind also helps leaders stay personally resilient. They are able to find new opportunities that emerge and take on new challenges with excitement. This helps set an expectation of continuous improvement.
Step 2 – Explain the Change
When opportunities to change exist, leaders know how to explain the change to others. They can set the context and talk with others about the business reasons for the change. They engage others in conversation and clarify the long-term value of making the change.
Step 3 – Acknowledge the Loss
Even when there is a sound business reason for making a change, great change leaders know that the people affected by the change will still have some concerns. They understand that fear and resistance are natural reactions to change. Supporting people by recognizing the loss of familiar ways of working is an important step towards building long-term commitment. It helps minimize disruptions to the business and eliminates confusion for people during the change process.
Step 4 – Create the Climate
During the implementation of any change, there will be “early adopters” (people who get excited about change). A successful leader identifies these key influencers who are supportive of the change, and with the leader’s help, these individuals can help set a positive tone for the new change. They build excitement and momentum and help others see the benefits of the change and let go of the past.
Step 5 – Build a Plan
The leader sets a clear direction for the change, how it will be accomplished, and how its success will be measured. No aspect of the implementation is left to chance. The leader defines who, what, where, and when each step of the change will take place.
Step 6 – Launch and Sustain
Finally, once the change is implemented, a leader must make constant adjustments and ongoing improvements. This helps people overcome barriers and sustain the change as part of the organization’s new culture.
CMOE works with organizations to plan for and implement change. Contact CMOE to learn more about how we can help you successfully implement strategic changes within your organization.