“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” Lao Tzu. These wise words from the 6th century BC apply in spades in a 21st century business context.
In a time of massive technological and social change too many companies are heading in a direction set by outdated business models. Over recent years strong companies such as Agfa, AEG, Grundig, Kodak, Triumph, and Woolworths have disappeared. What did they do wrong? They failed to change in a fast changing world. But change is difficult. Despite being recognized as a top priority by organizations of all types, studies consistently show between 50 and 70% of planned change efforts fail.
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In a new white paper from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), ‘Navigating Change: A Leader’s Role', David Dinwoodie, William Pasmore, Laura Quinn, and Ron Rabin, explain that while organizations can often master the operational or structural side of change, unless they can also master the people side of change they will not succeed. As the authors point out “To gain the desired results from a new direction, system, or initiative, organizations need the benefit of change leadership along with change management."
They suggest that change leadership operates at three levels - Self, Others, and the Organization. Bearing in mind that for mid- and senior- level managers there is a need to create and lead change as well as to respond to change directives coming from above.
There is also a need to develop the mindsets and skillsets for leading change, understanding that different people have different built-in reactions to change – some ‘Conservers’ accept the status quo and advocate improvement within the established business model; others ‘Originators’ like to challenge current structures and look for new possibilities, vision, and direction; and others ‘Pragmatists’ see merit in the perspectives of both conservers and originators—as long as a clear business case exists for one approach or the other.
The authors show how leaders need to navigate change through four phases: Discover. Decide. Do. Discern (i.e. discern what is working and what isn’t in order to maintain focus, energy, resources, and support to ensure change sustains over time). They also explain how stability and change must coexist. This may appear to be diametrically opposed, but stability vs. change is not a problem to solve but a polarity to manage. To achieve the full performance potential of the organization, change leaders must both maintain support for the organizational elements that are critical for reaping the benefits of today’s business model, and drive the innovations that will propel the future model.
“By understanding the polarities of change and seeking the sweet spot of ‘both/and’, change leaders can present a change effort in a way that others can embrace. Change and influence are inextricably linked. Influence is about gaining not only compliance but also the commitment necessary to successfully drive change.”
Finally, leading change is also bringing critical change agents ‘on board,' and defining what ‘buy-in’ looks like from each stakeholder. Pressure, uncertainty, and setbacks are all part of going through change. So leaders need to build their own reserves and resiliency, in support of their mental and physical health, and to guide others to face change in healthy and sustainable ways. This is increasingly important as people experience the cumulative effects of ongoing and often turbulent change.
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