My previous two articles pointed out the difficulties leaders have when they are half way through a transformational change process. The first article discussed “what happens” when the process gets stuck, and the second one emphasized “why” people are reluctant to move forward half way through the change process. It is not unusual in times of transformational change for the process to bog down as transformation often comes about by disruption and a series of relapses and missteps.
This article outlines four actions leaders can take to help the organization or team move forward; my next article will suggest the personal commitments leaders can make to keep themselves moving ahead.
Re-commit to the Vision and Purpose. When progress falters it’s time for the leader to engage the appropriate people to re-commit to the initial vision and purpose for the change. This isn’t just reminding them about “why” the change is necessary but about engaging everyone in a realignment of both vision and purpose. Here the leader encourages a dialogue with them about their understanding of the vision and purpose and how it applies to improving the organization and the service to customers. By re-committing to the vision and purpose leaders give people “hope” for a better outcome. They are appealing to people’s emotions or to the “heart” of why the organization is engaged in a change process. During this re-commitment exercise leaders need to be prepared to tweak or modify the vision or purpose statements to clarify any misunderstanding.
Re-commit to the Values of the organization or team. Values provide the principles upon which an organization or team culture rests. Values, if they are relevant and meaningful, must be owned by the people within the organization. In most instances they are developed and approved by them at the beginning of the change process.
Sometimes, when teams and organizations are stuck in the middle of change, values become muddled, or people don’t adhere to them which causes angst and frustration. This presents an opportunity for leaders to engage people to re-commit to the values. One way to do this is by conducting a short survey on how well people perceive they and others are living the values; and, sharing the results with them and then entering into a dialogue on what they can do to improve their behaviour so that they better reflect the values. Other times, unfortunately, the values and principles underlying the change process did not occur at the beginning of the change process. If this is the case the middle muddle becomes more desperate and it is incumbant opon the leader to engage the team or organization in a process of value determination and clarification.
One principle that should always be front and centre for all change is that the change must be customer centric; if this isn’t the case then the change will be futile, costly and with limited return on the hard and soft investment given to the process.
Promote the Change Process as Everyone’s Business. Change is not the leader’s challenge alone. Change occurs when everyone in the change process recognizes that they have a role to play. By clarifying “change as everyone’s business” the leader seeks a re- commitment from everyone to join in the process – to take ownership, responsibility and accountability for their part. Just as in point one above, the leader engages the team or organization in a dialogue. This time it is about seeking input regarding the importance of ownership, responsibility and accountability. The discussion about “change is everyone’s business,” often ends with a formal commitment agreement i.e. a signing or re-signing of a document indicating a commitment to take ownership, responsibility and accountability for actions and behaviours.
Re-commit to Collaboration, Coordination and Communication. Collaboration, coordination and communication are three ingredients for a successful change process.
It is important at the beginning of the change process for leaders to engage participants in setting the ground rules for collaboration, coordination and communication. Mid-way through the process they may find that they need to re-engage team members to re-commit to the three ingredients. This usually takes a session to review what is working and what is not and make corrections and a re-commitment to the three ingredients.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC