Change is in the air this summer. Large and small organizations across the country are restructuring their org charts, redesigning operational systems to be more efficient, planning for the future, and actively considering a variety of mergers and acquisitions. All with the hope that these actions will give them a competitive advantage.
Initiating major organizational change at these levels is a big deal. It should not be done on a whim or a lark. It should not be ego driven. Hopefully, it has been well thought through and connected to the organization’s strategic nexus.
Before one undertakes strategic level actions, I often encourage leaders to undertake some initial work as recommended by Dan S. Cohen in his book, The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for Leading Change in Your Organization. Harvard Business School Press, 2005. He recommends the following steps be taken.
First “take the temperature.... You cannot start real change without a realistic picture of the internal climate of the organization.” Too many times, I have seen leaders skip this stage and end up having to back track on what they want to do. In our rush to make change, we often forget that the capacity to plan does not always equal the capacity to execute.
Second, “identify the hurdles.... cultural barriers to change should be identified and addressed early in the change process.” If there is one thing that more and more leaders will miss this summer is the understanding that culture is the source of the magic and the mojo in their organization. It can make or break change in a heart beat. If not managed well, culture can shut down and/or stifle creativity. Status quo does not tolerate fools.
Third, “talk to the people in the trenches.... the rank and file often know more than their bosses about the real needs, real problems, and the potential solutions because they live and breathe them every day.” Strategic dialogues this summer are vital to organizational success. We, as leaders, need to listen carefully to employee’s concerns, needs, fears and worries. If our answer to their concerns is that “if you do not like working here, you can go work for the competition,” then the best people will leave and the front line employees will only do the minimal level of work rather than their best.
From my vantage point, the first steps to successful change this summer begins with doing an in-depth strategic analysis, knowing your own gut and defining what is and what is not negotiable. Furthermore, it involves having the courage to ask both employees and customers for feedback about quality and service delivery, and then having the fortitude to listen even if it is not positive.
This summer many organizations will make mistakes. Hopefully, how they start strategic level change will not be one of them.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257