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How Leaders Drive Organizational Change

The mission of The Wunderlin Company is assisting organizations to identify and implement change. With this issue of Changing Times we are howleader1.jpghonored to have Carol Schifman, a member of the TWC team, share her findings about how leaders can drive change. Carol's change management clients have included GE, United Technologies, Northeast Utilities, the FDIC, and most recently Amersham, now part of GE Healthcare, the new GE business that encompasses GE Medical, Amersham, and other acquisitions. With over 20 years providing organizational change leadership and organizational development consulting, she has experiences and perspectives that I believe you will find compelling. To find out more about Carol's work, visit: twc_team.htm#schifman.

Listen to the Voices

"I say we fight like hell to do it our way."

"I'm finally getting it. We have been sitting here thinking it really was business as usual, and a huge wave is about to hit us."

"It's total chaos. No one knows what to do; people aren't coming to work. It varies by group AND by leadership styles within the groups."

"I really want out of this. It is becoming a whirlpool sucking out all of my energy."

These are real "employee voices" during a recent and quite dramatic change in an organization.

When leaders are asked: "What do you want your people to do differently to implement this change effort?" or "How do you want your employees to think differently?" they most often respond: "They will figure that out for themselves. These are smart people."

The problem is people don't figure it out. People will do the old things with more effort and intensity early in any major change because they are convinced that if they can simply make the old ways work better, they will be able to avoid, or at least delay, the need for making any changes. Does this ring true for your organization?

Listen to what your employees' are saying. Use them as a gauge to determine if, indeed, they will figure it out for themselves. Then do not shy away -- lead the change.

Laying the Groundwork for Change

To succeed through change, leaders are responsible for laying the groundwork. Here are five questions to help you begin thinking about what you have to do to make any change succeed in your organization:

  1. Does everyone clearly understand the outcomes this change is trying to accomplish?
  2. Does each department, functional group and team collectively understand what they have to do for this change to succeed in their specific area?
  3. Do I know where the resistance is, why, and have a plan to address it? (This takes time!)
  4. Do all appropriate individuals have the right channels of communication for information to come in and go out, to ensure or check for progress?
  5. Does the formal and informal reward system clearly reinforce and support these new behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, etc.?

If you can answer yes to these five questions, people in your organization are likely to begin to make the changes work. Change is a process. This is just the beginning.

Change: It's a Process that Takes Time and Effort

Implementing organizational change is a process that takes concerted time and effort - time and effort that seems preciously limited. Research shows that most leaders underestimate the magnitude of the change they plan, the level of resistance they will encounter, and the amount of time required to implement their planned change, and overestimate their level of clarity regarding the kind of (organizational as well as individual) change required.

So what can you do to move your people towards making the change? Here are a number of ways to help individuals through the process.

  • Legitimize the expression of feelings
  • Listen
  • Target a few quick wins
  • Recognize new performance
  • Preserve employee influence wherever possible
  • Strategize and plan for the future
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities
  • Involve individuals in the decision-making process where possible
  • Give as much clear direction as possible — daily
  • Communicate frequently
  • Focus people on the future
  • Continue to recognize anxieties that exist

Leading a Change Effort

The Wunderlin Company is committed to helping organizations manage and implement change. We help organizations implement new structures, leadership development processes, succession planning and organization-wide initiatives.

We also recognize that leading a change effort requires a cadre of managers who can inspire, motivate and lead employees so that they perform to the best of their abilities. In other words, it requires managers who are masterful coaches and facilitators. The Wunderlin Company offers both a Coaching Workshop and Facilitation one. To find out more, click on for the Coaching Workshop and on for the Facilitation Workshop.

And From Our Bookshelf

Here are some of our favorite books to help you better understand the process of implementing change within your organization:

Leading Change by John P. Kotter.

The Heart of Change by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen.

The Change Monster by Jeanie Daniel Duck.

Best Practices in Oganizational Development and Change edited by Louis Carter, David Giber and Marshall Goldsmith.

Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination by Jane Magruder Watkins and Bernard J. Mohr.

Leading Change, Overcoming Chaos: A Seven Stage Process for Making Change Succeed in Your Organization by Michael L. Heifetz

Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Terms of Engagement: Changing the Way We Change Organizations by Richard H. Axelrod

The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block

Managing at the Speed of Change by Daryl R. Conner

Conquering Organizational Change: How to Succeed Where Most Companies Fail by Pierre Mourier and Martin Smith

Managing Transitions by William Bridges

Cracking the Code of Change by Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria

The Real Reason People Won't Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail by John Kotter

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