When it comes to change, speed can kill.
The desire to get things in quickly, be decisive and prove you are an action leader can create a false sense of momentum. Those change efforts appear to leap out of the blocks only to slow as the resistance builds and the lack of commitment drags the efforts of change leaders to a halt. The 12 month integration program becomes a three to five year effort that collapses morale and spurs attrition.
John Kotter, renowned change guru, has highlighted the eight steps to leading successful transformations i.e.
1. Establish a sense of urgency
2. Form a powerful guiding coalition
3. Create a vision
4. Communicate the vision
5. Empower others to action the vision
6. Plan for and create short-term wins
7. Consolidate improvements and produce more change
8. Institutionalise new approaches
These are all necessary however i would like to highlight the most noticeable resistance to change that comes from a lack of involvement by those affected.
Understanding why a change is being undertaken and how it will take shape is critical to a successful change effort. Whilst the communication of these elements are essential they do not build commitment. If you need active participation from individuals and teams you need to listen, acknowledge and explain. You need to incorporate their good ideas and explain why you are not using their other ideas. Whilst it may feel like repetition and pandering to egos it is an essential element to developing the fuel that will drive your program with increasing acceleration.
I have seen the new leader take command and dictate new strategies day 1 using new distribution channels, revised products and new markets without bothering to ask existing leaders and experts what they think. Six months later the market research confirms what was known all along that the channels proposed had no interest in taking on distribution of that product. Detailed research also confirmed the cross-sell initiative faced numerous hurdles and was also another miss.
Great leaders listen first and then decide. They do not resile from removing obstacles that may slow progress. They involve, gain commitment and drive the change through active participation, frequent communication and by highlighting progress. Their energy is focused on building support and respect for the change, removing road blocks and remaining open to feedback and accepting changes along the way. Quality is not compromised, it is enhanced through the participation, involvement and commitment garnered through this leadership approach.
So if you want fast change ..slow down and listen first!