Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Leading Change Enablement and Engagement

Change is and will continue to be a constant for all organizations and all leaders must be willing and ready at all times to lead the charge. Harmonic leaders must be change leaders, having the willingness and ability to change that which is currently being done to something that possibly has never been done before. They know they must let go of yesterday’s successes and abandon the past in search of a better tomorrow. We have been taught to see the outside world as the source of creation for anything new but the truth is the outside world that we see and experience first begins as a thought from within. Before we can begin to change any situation or any thing, we have to first “imagine” that change within our minds, and then and only then can we begin to move forward towards creating a changed reality. Harmonic leaders know that’s where the true power for change comes from. They also know that the ideas and thinking that created the current states that exist are not the same ones needed to create a better tomorrow. Therefore, harmonic leaders know how important it is to encourage and reward “new thinking” and “new thoughts” in order to move an organization to a new place. The harmonic leader welcomes and encourages innovation while encouraging others to develop new and innovative concepts for solving tomorrow’s problems and delivering world-class solutions. They embrace the idea that everyone should have an “imagination journal” because they know that’s the only way we can not only imagine a better tomorrow but actually begin to create it.

To aid the harmonic leader in managing change I defined the following five guidelines to aid in enabling the change effort:

1. Have a "vision" and then "talk and walk it up" - It is essential that the harmonic leader create a vision that links the present with the future for others when implementing change. They must not only create a vision but become the vision in the eyes of those that follow them. People must have a way to see a glimpse of a better future, a better tomorrow that is attractive and reachable that compels them to move in that direction. When developing the vision, the leader should identify who the key stakeholders are and engage them in helping to develop and bring the vision to life. Beginning with the senior leadership team is a great place to start because they should have the broadest perspective and knowledge necessary to understand the need for change. The harmonic leader must also take time to understand the values, hopes and dreams of others effected by the change and know how to engage them. They also know it is not just about engaging a few individuals but more importantly, engaging the "masses" from the beginning of the change journey. With a vision, the harmonic leader can convey an image to all of what can be accomplished and the benefits and values to be realized when the change is achieved. However, it is important that the harmonic leader neither over promise nor under sell the opportunity when developing the vision.

2. Build a broad coalition of support and use them to help sell the change - Successful change is not easy and usually requires the support and effort of several key people. Therefore, it is essential that the harmonic leader work to build a coalition of supporters and advocates inside and outside the organization. One way to begin is to schedule time with other leaders to sell the value and benefits of the change and engage them in being active advocates and supporters. Ensure they are engaged and prepared to support the implementation of the change. The harmonic leader should continue to sell the vision to all who are impacted. The more advocates and "angels" one has supporting the change initiative the better.

3. Communicate, communicate, then communicate – The need for continuous communications for successful change cannot be emphasized enough. Once the vision and future state is communicated, people will need to know what the expectations are for supporting the change, what steps are being taken, what has been completed and what work still needs to be done, what improvements or impacts have been made and finally, are the objectives being achieved. Communications is also essential to address any anxiety or stress people might go through when faced with major change. To keep people informed on how things are progressing will create more enthusiasm and self-confidence in the ability to achieve the desired results. It is also critical to allow for two-way communications. Not only should people be communicated to, there must be a way of people to communicate to the harmonic leader and other change agents and advocates when needed. The ability to ask questions and get honest answers will go along way in keeping people engaged in the change initiative.

4. Create a sense of urgency – Harmonic leaders must communicate that the need for action is "now" not later. When change is seen as gradual and far off, many people will choose to "wait it out" and "not engage", some with the hope that if they ignore it, it will go away. The harmonic leader must be able to persuade others in the organization that the time needed for change is now versus a gradual slow roll approach. It is important to explain the consequences of waiting versus the benefits of action. Many leaders rely on business cases to communicate the need to act now. Identifying a high return on investing in the change over time can go a long way to engaging and convincing others to "get on board".

5. Decide how you want to "chew the elephant up" then plan for early wins – Large change initiatives can take several months and even years to implement. With a large initiative it is important that the harmonic leader plan a strategy that allows for early and frequent successes along the way. As people experience success they gain more confidence providing them with more energy to continue. That's why it's important that the harmonic leader plan critical milestones of achievements to show progress to the plan and to provide an opportunity for people to stop and celebrate accomplishments. Also, by dividing the elephant into the right "bite sizes" the harmonic leader minimizes the feeling that the change is too large and unachievable.

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.’
Alan Cohen

I just love this quote.....:)

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