Successful change is one of the biggest challenges that today’s organizations face. In our fast-changing world, the strategic imperative to change is often clear: Without doing things differently, the organization is unlikely to succeed, or survive over time.
What makes change so challenging? Change consist of two dimensions; we talk about external and internal dimension. Externally, there are aspects of change that are quite concrete like change office from one building to another etc. Internally, there is the adaptation to the change, which deals with the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and emotional response triggered by the external change like change office building or floor. External change can happen quickly and yet adaptation to the change can take much longer, especially since one often emotion is connected to internal changes that happen externally.
Research shows that most change initiative fails, we know, for example, that 70 percent of all change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. Despite the best intentions, most of the organizational transformations fall short of their goals.
So, what can leaders do to successfully lead others through change?
The 3 C’s of Change Leadership
Research shows that there are 3 skills that are necessary in the process part of change. The 3 C’s unite effective change leadership:
- Communicate. Research shows that unsuccessful leaders tended to focus on the “what” behind the change. Successful leaders communicated the “what” and the “why.” It helps little to communicate “we are losing money, so we must staff down and close down departments”. On the other hand, it will help to communicate that “due to changed framework conditions, we must change the way we work, which will unfortunately mean that some employees will be staffed down”. Leaders who explains through communication the purpose of the change and connected it to the organization’s business processes and explained the benefits to change the way one doing the work on, created stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.
- Collaborate. As a leader, it is important to have open and good processes with the company’s employees through their representatives who are employed representatives, union representatives and the company’s main representative. Open processes contribute to a good collaboration climate between management and employees.
It is all about bringing together the company’s intellectual capital on a change journey. By involving the employee’s representatives together to plan and execute change is critical. As a leader you need to work across boundaries, encouraged employees to break out of their silos, and refused to tolerate unhealthy competition. Successful change leaders include their employees in decision-making early on, strengthening their commitment to change. Unsuccessful change leaders failed to engage employees early and often in the change process. They often run processes where they have predetermined outcomes and serve facts directly to employees, that is how it is and that is how it is. Of course, this means that there is extraordinarily little commitment from the employees.
III. Commit. Successful leaders made sure their own beliefs and behaviours supported change, too. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiated it successfully is resilient and persistent, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. They also devoted more of their own time to the change effort and focused on the big picture. Unsuccessful leaders failed to adapt to challenges, expressed negativity, and were impatient with a lack of results.