Change is a key factor for many Aveus clients. More often than not, we’re talking big change, a major transformation – the kind of complex challenge we love to dig into. Most recently, we wrapped up a four-year assignment with Deluxe supporting the transformation of the organization in the face of significant shifts in the marketplace (see my post earlier this week for more on our Deluxe role). Leading and managing change is really a marathon and in the midst of the work it is easy to lose sight of some of the simple principles that are essential to effective transformation. I thought I would share lessons of these for all those leaders grappling with big change efforts.
Build a courageous leadership team bound by a shared vision of success. Leadership with a strong sense of resolve about the future is essential to successful change. The tough decisions that need to be made during change should be based on where the organization is headed, not where it has been. The organization will constantly look to the leadership team for guidance and reassurance that transformation is the right thing to do and the direction is correct. So spend time making sure you have the right leaders on board and that as a team you have a strong and clear view of the future.
Build trust. Change feels risky and unknown to most – we all take comfort in what we know and trust. That’s why it’s so important to build trust across the organization. Explaining the plan, why the organization is doing it, the path to get there and a clear vision of the end goal are an absolute must to helping people navigate change in a positive way. Do what you say you’re going to do, hold others accountable for what they’ve agreed to, and roll up you sleeves to work through change side-by-side with your team.
Communication is key. It’s tough to keep pace with communication during times of change, but you really can’t communicate enough. While it may feel like overkill, keep in mind that individuals process information in different ways – and speeds. If you’ve said it once, say it again – and in multiple formats. For example, schedule regular updates through large and small group meetings, the same information shared via email, and again in print. Arrange forums where you can listen to people in the organization explain the change and the future in their own words so the leadership team can assess if the message is really taking hold.
Share early successes. People get weary with the work associated with change. Often they keep looking forward and only see how far they still have to go. It is important to celebrate successes early and often to remind people how much has already been accomplished. Progress energizes the team and makes it easier to tackle the next hurdles.
Set a brisk pace. Balancing the pace of change with people’s comfort with change is a tricky thing. It is often easy to declare that the organization can only cope with so much change, but in reality, individually and collectively the organization longs for progress. Slowing down is probably not the right answer and you lose momentum. Communication and celebration is probably what is needed – not a change in pace.
So, these are some of the lessons that have served me well. How about you? When you’re running a marathon of significant change, what lessons have served you well?