The Critical Tasks of Change Leadership
Organizational commitment, concentration, and follow-through
– one without the others is a formula for frustration. Without
commitment, there cannot be concentration. Loss of concentration
derails follow-through. The three together are requisites for
successful change. Delivering all three is the deciding role of
Visioning is conception. It starts and sustains the change process.
Commitment begins with a destiny in mind. A vision gives
substance and meaning to the journey. No one will commit to the
“next step” of a journey unless he/she “knows” where it is taking him
or her. No one will commit to ambiguity, or commit to something
that is so rigid as to be unaccommodating. Bold ideas (an image,
aim, or dream) have magic. Bold statements (a declaration,
announcement, or proclamation) alienate. A vision is a bold idea.
Organizational commitment begins and ends with leadership
commitment. As a rule of thumb, the highest standard a leader can
expect his or her followers to rise to is the lowest standard he or she
demonstrates. Without demonstration of a high level of personal
commitment through courage, persistence, and consideration, few will
jump on board. Demonstrating commitment is about the struggle to
keep the promises of the vision and the journey. Vision is context
for everything an organization does. Context gives significance.
Until a vision moves beyond a personal aim to a shared
organizational aim and destiny, progress will be limited. Neither
compliance nor acceptance is ownership. Ownership is mine and ours,
not yours and theirs.
Ownership is the product of a process, a personal mental journey.
At the end of the process people who “own” can see and believe in a
pathway that, if followed, will lead to their success and satisfaction.
The core process to ownership is communications. It involves
systematically moving from Individual Awareness to Shared
Awareness; then from Individual Aims to Shared Aims; and finally to
Teamwork (the facilitating force of shared ownership) has two easily
assessable indicators. First, people are convinced their personal
success is contingent on the successful accomplishment of the team's
goal. Second, people have no doubt that all the people involved are
necessary for success.
Resistance is diversity of thought. Diversity is the seed of creativity.
Squelching resistance suppresses creativity and the possibility of
what could be. Resistance is a feeling not a fact. Whether resistance
is personal or organizational, the root cause is either a mismatch of
values or misunderstanding of facts. A complete articulation and
alignment of both facts and values is the discipline needed to leverage
resistance. When confronted with the same set of facts, viewing
them through the same sets of values, people will reach comparable
conclusions. Changing the facts changes the feeling. Changing the
values changes the perception.
The antithesis of resistance, unity, is the outcome of openness,
understanding and caring. Openness involves the personal risk of
ridicule. Understanding requires the discipline of listening. Caring
involves being for something. Being against something is a no-lose
proposition. If it does not work out, “I told you so.” If it does, “That’
s not what I said/meant.” Being for something carries the risk of
being wrong. Unity, as opposed to resistance, is a delicate business,
and easily snuffed out with the wrong comment at the wrong time.
Comments like these squash openness, extinguish the chance for
understanding, and demonstrate a lack of caring. The power of unity
comes only through harnessing the force of disunity.
Most organizations in change are solutions rich and problem
definition poor. Organizations that take the time to first clearly
define “the problem” achieve unity on the solution. The battles over
solutions and foot dragging during implementation have their roots in
not achieving a shared awareness and understanding of the problem.
Without clarity, there is only confusion. Lack of clarity is a license for
indecision. Conversely, too much clarity is an edict. The hierarchy of
strategic thinking and implementation has nine elements – Beliefs,
Philosophy, Principles, Concept, Strategy, Design, Action,
Audit, and Evaluate. Beliefs, philosophy, principles, and concept are
the substance of Vision. There cannot be ambiguity about the beliefs
around what it takes to win, or putting these beliefs together into a
working philosophy that is not self-contradicting. Nor can there be
equivocation about the behavioral principles that will guide an
organization to success, or double-talk about the concept an
organization will pursue. While inherently these four are broad far-
reaching statements, they still must be clear. These four form the
boundaries within which an organization will pursue its destiny. While
the first four elements deal with the clarity of boundaries, the final
five deal with clarity of choices and actions. The first four confront
distant horizons, the final five cope with horizons that are nearby. All
require clarity. As the journey of change progresses, what there
needs to be clarity about evolves.
Who is going to put their energy into a situation they cannot
influence, or in an outcome, they have no stake in? You have to
have both. Everyone boarding an airplane has a stake in the outcome
of the flight. On the other hand, while most may be concerned to
one degree or another, there is not anything the typical passenger
can do to influence the outcome. So there is not much point in
getting excited about it.
People get excited and energized about pursuits where they can
directly influence the outcome, and how the outcome plays out has
the potential to help or harm them personally. Involvement is
ownership. Ownership means accountability and authority for the
outcome. Responsibility comes from within an individual.
Accountability and authority come from outside. If people are not
afforded both the accountability and authority to act, there is little
hope they will feel responsible. Most will be either “in the back of the
cabin along for the ride, or catch another plane.” Involvement is
different from involved. Involved is along for the ride, involvement is
participation in the outcome. By definition, every member of an
organization “is involved”. Involvement requires taking it to the next
Delegation requires the giving of both accountability and authority.
Accountability without authority is as preposterous as authority with
no accountability. However, together they form the foundation for
involvement. One without the other leads to “disconnect”.
Timing is the most frequently cited barrier to moving forward,
typically “too soon.” Timing is critical. The process of change has
both parallel and sequential elements. If something is out of
sequence, the timing definitely is not right. Tactics before strategy or
actions before design are both hard examples. Soft examples are
moving forward without commitment, or saying yes to too much and
overrunning the capabilities of the organization.
When an organization confronts timing issues, the discipline
necessary is to determine not only the immediate cause but also the
root cause is essential. Organizations that find themselves
continually restrained from taking action by timing have something
deeper at work that until dealt with, timing will continue to recur as a
The other side of too soon, is too late. Competition is not standing
still, nor are market and customer expectations. Too late is not a
reason to stop moving forward unless it really is an end game
situation. Discovering why things got to a state like this, and then
taking action around the cause so everyone knows what was done
and put in place so they will never find themselves in a predicament
like this again, is essential.
The table of success has three legs, I know, I can, I will. “I know”
is about understanding expectations and ones own role and the role
of others in getting things done. “I can” is about having the required
resources including time, training, and access to others in order to do
what is expected. “I will” is a matter of personal choice when one
knows what is expected and is able to do it.
Accountability for “I know” and “I can” lies with leadership. Providing
clarity and aligned strategies and tactics within the capabilities of the
organization is critical. It is an easy trap to say yes. Nevertheless,
when leadership says yes to initiatives, strategy and tactics that go
beyond the “stretch” capability of the organization, all that is left is
“breakdown”. Organizations discovering themselves in a bind and
hard pressed to catch-up frequently become victims of the "yes
syndrome". Reality is that when one says yes to one thing, of
necessity they are saying no to a myriad of other alternatives.
Nothing thwarts an organization’s progress more than dealing with
profuse well-intentioned yes’s. No is as strategic as yes.
If a leader does not check and see how things are going, what is he
or she saying? The voice that leads an organization is the action of
its leaders. Declarations, etc. are only loud bells that draw
organizational attention. Without supporting action and attention,
the voice that leads falls silent. Auditing is a two-way system. It not
only allows real time access to the efficiency, effectiveness, and
correctness of a decision, but it also signals those involved that what
they are doing is important.
“What gets measured gets done.” Measurements define an
organization. Assessment is measurement. What an organization
measures determines the scope and nature of the problems it sees.
The problems it sees determine the solutions it works on. What an
organization works on determines what an organization does. What
an organization does defines what an organization is. Metrics are
strategic. Metric mania can be fatal. Metrics that cascade down from
vision to action provide standards, context, and direction, and are
fundamental to successful change.
|Theory is different than practice.|
|It does not agree with our policy.|
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Oak Leaf Consulting, LLC