For anyone who has led an organizational change, we know it can be complicated at best and at worst; it can limit your career and have a significant adverse impact on your business. In 2008, a McKinsey survey of 3,199 executives around the world found, as Kotter did in 1998, that only one transformation in three succeeds. Other studies over the past ten years reveal remarkably similar results.
So, in times of profound change, where business success hinges on the leader and the organization being able to change quickly and effectively, what should we be doing to increase our likelihood of success?
I focus on the impact of leadership as well as the systems and processes being used to implement the change. From Collins Good to Great and others we have learned that Level 5 Leaders are more likely to successfully create long term sustainable change that moves the company to “greatness.”
So, while there is certainly no one size fits all answer, there are six basic principles a leader embarking on change can consider.
1. Assess your leadership skills and those of your leadership team and identify where you need to develop, change roles, and augment your team through new hires or consulting support
2. Create a clear and compelling vision of your future state that addresses the needs of the individual, the team, the company, and the community. This vision must speak to the positive impact you will make preferable in the version of a story that inspires people along with creating a sense of urgency answering the question why now.
3. Adopt a structured approach to identifying solutions to the existing challenges, prioritizing them, testing your hypothesis and launching projects that are aligned with the solutions you created.
4. Manage the project or projects using a portfolio approach that allows you to see the impact all of the projects have on one another, the business, the team and customers to ensure you are able to keep the current revenue generating business healthy and staff motivated and healthy while concurrently creating the next offering or solution. Implement a solid suite of measures that can serve as your dashboard to ensure you can quickly identify and address problems.
5. Build skills and capacity to enable employees to have the skills to do their jobs effectively and also the emotional capacity to quickly adapt to the current level of change not only in the business but in society overall. Success requires we tend not only to the technical components of job change but also the emotional needs of employees who are facing unprecedented levels of change in every area of life and need to develop additional skills to enable them to become resilient.
6. Create consequences for individual and group behaviors. A successful change will consider the organization’s culture and systems and refine them to support the success of the new initiative without undermining the current. This could include changes in goals and performance management systems (appraisals), update bonus structures, refine hiring and promotion criteria, and update company training and orientations to reflect the new processes and new mindsets.
Successful change implementation requires the leaders take a systematic approach that considers their role as leaders (beliefs and behaviors) as well as the organizational vision, its culture, structure, and processes. Addressing all of these in a systematic fashion that is scaled to match the size and complexity of the company and the project will significantly increase the likelihood of successful transformation.
How have you seen these success factors play out in transformations you’ve been a part of? Where have they worked well? Where have people failed to apply them and what was the result?
Maureen is the President of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., bringing 23 years of business experience to the table as she helps professionals grow well beyond their own expectations. She is recognized as an effective leader who demonstrates operational skills coupled with the ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth and sustainability. She’s also one of the newest members of the thoughtLEADERS team. Read more of her work on her blog.