Tenet #7: Plan, recognize and celebrate short term wins.
Tenet #5 encouraged you to break your change project down into phases, but you should go further. You should assure that within the phases you have milestones to recognize, ways to encourage and reasons to celebrate. Your team needs to see progress, to know that their efforts above and beyond the normal day’s work are paying off, and the more frequently you are able to demonstrate and recognize this progress, the more effective you will be in encouraging your team to continue in the fight for change.
Perhaps an example will help. When I began working for a well-known company with a long history in innovation, there had been a period of very few new product releases and an overemphasis on specials for customers. While this company had been very successful in its own right over the years, it was clear that to reach its new growth goals, it needed to further improve by a focus on portfolio management and improving product development execution. There was much that we could do, but we choose to break the change program into phases that went something like this (with a few modifications to present a clearer picture):
Tenet #6: Empower decision making consistent with the vision.
As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” All too often leaders set themselves up to be the only decision maker for their change management projects. For well-intentioned reasons, leaders take on the mantle of ultimate judge for ideas and tactical implementation details of all kinds in a project. In fact, our new world of Sarbanes-Oxley accountability rules has made this situation worse, driving many leaders to pull back on delegation. The investment community and the law require a level of scrutiny and direct decision-making for accounting from our key leaders that have caused some to behave in a similar fashion nearly all decisions. The result in some firms has been that top management is now the bottleneck on many decisions.
Tenet #5: Over-communicate. Be consistent. Make it simple.
No matter how many times you think you have given the same message during a significant organizational change, give it again, and again, and again! Remember that while the future is crystal clear in your mind and in the mind of your guiding coalition, most of the organization is entrenched in their current paradigm. Even if you have given the single most eloquent speech of your life, once, the impact on the average worker has a short “half-life of decay”. As they walk out of your turning-point meeting and go back to their day jobs, the message is fading away with every step. The tyranny of the urgent takes over. Most of the people in your organization are worried about fulfilling the daily expectations of the firm using current processes, tools, roles and responsibilities. They are living in the present day, being mindful of what they must do to complete existing customer or administrative needs. What is to come, the vapor-ware you offer, the future you are presenting will be believed when it impacts them. But sooner or later it will impact them. You need to prepare them for that time. Give your message over and over again.
Tenet #4: Break it down into phases.
Your plans are grand. You can see the future and it’s bright for your organization. But it’s very different from what you see today. You know it will take a lot of work and dedication, but you are confident you can get there, and you are anxious to achieve these goals. You may even have significant pressure from your sponsors to reach new heights, and to reach them fast. You are charged up and motivated, and if you have done your job right, you also have a highly motivated and cognizant guiding coalition, as discussed in Tenet #3. Your people are behind you 100%.
So why do they seem so worried? Why are they groaning at the thought of all of the hard work?
Tenet #3: Create a guiding coalition.
Even the most capable of leaders seldom achieve significant goals alone. No matter how bright our ideas, those ideas fall flat without a group of people to help implement them. Leaders drive change through other people and, for many of the leaders reading this tenet, change is driven through other leaders. Along with the first two tenets (“Fully understand and respect the current situation first” and “Learn together why change is necessary”) leaders need to enlist the help of influential and respected people that will refine, guide and execute the plan. A leader banging the cadence drum alone, without the clear support and involvement of other key personnel from around the organization will lose impact, sounding detached from the reality of day-to-day business. A leader driving change must gather and charter a powerful guiding coalition. A properly selected group will add vitality and validity, and extend the reach of the leader into all corners of the organization. Depending on the size of your organization, this may or may not be the same group of people who have jointly diagnosed the issues with you.