By Tracy Thurkow, Ph.D., Partner, Continuous Learning Group Inc.
Classic wisdom says that “management is about doing things right, and leadership is about doing the right things.” This is especially true during change. Good change management ensures that activities unfold in an orderly way. Change leadership ensures that people are fully invested in the vision and in achieving success.
One part of change leadership is to get people ready for change before it happens so they can perform at the highest possible levels after “go-live.” Two important things to remember:
1. Getting ready for change is more than engagement and skill building.
The goal line isn’t go-live. It is achieving new levels of performance after go-live. Go-live is a visible milestone for deploying a new structure, process, or tool. Leaders need to make sure it happens as smoothly as possible. However, change leadership doesn’t stop until people are behaving differently and achieving new results.
Often new behaviors require support after go-live even if every effort is made to engage people, address concerns, train new skills, and provide job aids. An important question is, “Assuming communications and training are world-class and fully effective, what critical behaviors will still be difficult for people to do after go-live?” A related question is, “After go-live, what critical behaviors will we need to look for and encourage?”
These behaviors are High-Impact Behaviors. They create results. Getting ready for change means being clear on what the High-Impact Behaviors are and then reinforcing them after go-live.
2. Leaders lead change (and advisors support leaders).
Change is about getting new results, and leaders are accountable for results. Leaders encourage the High-Impact Behaviors that create results. Leading change means personally understanding, communicating, and reinforcing those behaviors.
Advisors (whether an HR partner, a project manager, or a consultant) can supply ideas, skills, coaching, and tools to help leaders succeed. But advisors don’t lead change. They might manage change activities, but change leadership cannot be delegated to an advisor.
Tips for Advisors
Below are some tips that can help advisors ready people for change.
Ready the Sponsor
Advisors know just how important the sponsor is to the success of a change effort. Their role, of course, is to guide the project, make timely decisions, arrange resources, and champion the change.
A sometimes hidden role is that they must lead through influence, not only position authority. Because their decisions as sponsors can affect parts of the organization outside their direct authority, they need strategies for influencing peers and others. They need influencing skills, credibility, and good relationships in order to enroll other leaders in the change.
If you are an advisor, you can help ready the sponsor:
Ready the Leaders
Leaders are more than champions for change. Leaders provide the day-to-day direction and reinforcement that sets the pace and energy level for change. They are an important source of reinforcement for the High-Impact Behaviors after go-live.
The leader’s role is not easy. First, sometimes leaders have to address their own reactions to change before they can be good role models. Second, people tend to ask tough questions, which can be difficult or uncomfortable to answer. Third, sometimes leaders need to modify the direction and reinforcement they provide to others. They have to be comfortable encouraging new High-Impact Behaviors.
If you are an advisor, you can help ready the leaders:
Ready the People
All employees are decision-makers during change. They choose how thoroughly to become engaged. People can lose up to two hours of productive time each day talking with colleagues, tracking down information and rumors, speculating, etc. Change leadership means acknowledging the uncertainty change brings, helping people deal with uncertainty, and preparing them for the future.
Some reasons people struggle with change include:
They don’t understand how the change fits with other priorities.
Preparing people for change means putting yourself in their shoes and understanding how the change impacts them. It also means listening to their questions and ideas. Finally, it means knowing what High-Impact Behaviors you need them to do differently and making sure those behaviors are reinforced.
If you are an advisor, you can help ready the people:
Ready for Results
Ultimately, success is determined by results. Here are a few questions to ask to make sure the change is on the right track.
By asking these questions and acting on the answers, advisors can help people not only get ready for change but also achieve high levels of performance after go-live.”
Tracy Thurkow, Ph.D., is a partner at Continuous Learning Group Inc. (http://www.clg.com). An expert in the behavioral implications of large-scale organizational change initiatives, including Six Sigma, Dr. Thurkow has worked with numerous Fortune 100 companies to improve their performance across a variety of challenge areas. She has assisted leaders in some of the business world’s largest and most well-known organizations across a variety of industries, including oil and gas, telecommunications, financial services, industrial products, and package delivery. Dr. Thurkow earned a doctorate and Master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology with an emphasis in behavioral analysis, along with a minor in business at Auburn University. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in business management, from Western Michigan University.