Managing change in any industry involves a diverse audience
Managing change in any industry today involves not only a diverse but a captive audience. That audience may include internal employees, external customers, vendors and an organization’s Board of Directors.
With so many socio-economic variables on both the global and local levels, a leader must take a proactive, not reactive approach in implementing and executing change, whether it is internal to the organization, such as a staff restructure or external such as entry into a new line of business, in sourcing specific functions, etc.
Change is good for any organization; however, it can sometimes require some blood, sweat and tears along the way in order to obtain the desired outcome. However, ultimately what makes any change successful comes not from only committing to change and making them, but rather leadership, the executive team and an organization’s employees who carefully plan and manage them.
Here are few considerations which can help make and successfully manage change in your organization:
- Know your industry and understand its behavior – Some industries favor disruption while others do not and never will. In the latter case, implementing change may sometimes require a slow transition. In other words, as a leader, don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole.
- Develop long term goals and strategies – If your industry moves at a slower pace, long term goals and strategies are even more critical since you may not be able to plan, implement and execute numerous products and initiatives simultaneously at a rapid pace.
- Make sure employees are engaged – You will have employees who will embrace change and ride the waves, you will have some who are completely resistant to change and there will be some which Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan classifies in Change Friendly Leadership as ROAD Warriors (Retired on Active Duty). ROAD warriors are those employees who still work in the organization but are completely disinterested in any happenings, regardless of how big or small.
Here are examples of two dramatically different types of leaders who had very different approaches to managing change within the same industry.
Leader A of XYZ Company was selected to assume leadership of the organization at a time when the chips were down. The company was not healthy financially, clients were unhappy with the service level and employee morale was at an all time low.
Leader A came to XYZ and as any C-level executive does, onboards his own leadership team. When he arrived, he knew as well as the employees that major internal changes, as well as expansion of existing lines of business and overall change in corporate direction were in dire need.
From the start of his term, he was upfront with all employees about the state of the organization. He clearly and consistently communicated progress on different fronts and next steps. He was empathetic to his employees and expressed that he would only lay off employees as a last resort.
Since the large majority of employees were subject matter experts and long time veterans in the industry, he engaged them from the time he began any changes and initiatives. When he made changes, they were gradual moves since he well understood that the industry was slow paced and not an aggressive one.
He led all quarterly all staff meetings, provided an update on the various business areas and company financials. During these sessions, he never padded any news, whether it was good, bad or indifferent. He was open to any questions, comments or concerns. He was a very direct, engaging and poignant speaker.
Leader X came to ABC Company with a great vision of doing wonderful things for the community and the organization’s mission. While these efforts were to be applauded, he and his leadership team also elected to take on many high-priced and high stakes initiatives in a short period of time. Things came to a pinnacle when with the help of a consultant, he and his leadership team finally realized that the organization was trying to do too much in an industry which does not take disruption well.
From the beginning of his term, he spoke of employee engagement but a few years later is still trying to figure out how to do that with the help of an external committee. The employee engagement effort became more critical after a staff reorganization which occurred six months after he arrived. He announced in a very roundabout way that some employees would be out of a job. When staff wanted to ask questions, they were met with resistance instead of openness. A formal question and answer period was not introduced in the all staff meetings until around the third one he conducted and that was only due to a request from staff.
While he was excellent at interacting with external constituents, he stumbled when it came to interacting with his own employees.
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” –Karen Kaiser Clark
-What is your experience with changes that needed to be managed in your organization, whether they were minor or major ones?
-How well did leadership engage you and your colleagues when it came to embracing change?