I’m often reminded that leading change is not for the faint at heart. Having a plan for change is a good start. Spend some time identifying the potential ramifications that may result. Open your mind to thinking across the organization and about how others may view the proposed change. Anticipate the unexpected and prepare yourself with some answers and strategies so you can act with grace and diplomacy. When things go wrong, and they will, you need to be ready to take the heat and accept the responsibility as the leader. When things go right, share that success with as many colleagues as possible. It will help to position you in a Win-Win situation.
When we think about some barriers that may prevent change from happening, I’m sure your list would look something like this:
- Lack of a clear vision for successful change
- Insufficient information about how the change will address the problem we are facing
- Limited management support for the change process
- Lack of communication about the change (need for, plans for, process for, etc.)
- Organizational complacency (contentment with the status quo)
- Lack of change leadership experience
- Lack of planning for resistance
- Lack of time
- Insufficient resources allocated to implement and maintain the change (structure, personnel, etc.)
- Policies not aligned to the change
- Poor follow-through
- Lack of rewards for change or consequences for not changing (carrots or sticks in place)
Planning is a key to successful organizational change, so where do we start with planning?
You might begin by identifying a team of staff to engage with leadership in the implementation of change right from the beginning planning stages. Think about including individuals representing the various demographics of your organization (years of service, level of employment, and all departments that will be affected).
Call the implementation team together and share a worksheet created with the bulleted list above and begin discussion on the first barrier with the full large group. The goal is to identify both the root cause of the barrier as well as the approach or strategy the implementation team might take to overcome or eliminate the barrier. Once the team experiences what you are looking for from the discussion, divide the team into smaller groups and assign several of the barriers in the list to each small group.
Pull the small groups back together and draw in contributions for the entire group to discuss the responses and ways of overcoming barriers. Unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball to project which barriers we will confront, but the team brings a breadth of experience and knowledge about the organization and will be able to identify the most likely barriers ahead. Invite an active and open discussion about those barriers that are likely to become a reality. Addressing those, what could be put in place immediately to promote successful navigation of the barrier?
Leading change is never easy. Being proactive with planning and implementation will surely help. What other ideas do you have that may assist others in leading a successful change initiative.