Without a sense of urgency business change endeavours are likely to fail or, at best, deliver lukewarm results. I know. I’ve seen it time after time.
A Sense of Urgency
Delivering business change is difficult. Your people make change happen. Only they can make change a reality. Accordingly, it is important that people know why change is needed, are fully engaged in the process, and have opportunity to buy into the initiative.
Stretching it [change] over a long time period extends the discomfort. People will become impatient, confused and distracted. They will conclude that re-engineering is another bogus program and the effort will fall apart. – Michael Hammer and James Champy.
Therefore avoid false starts and haphazard efforts. These lead to anxiety and frustration and do nothing but delay the development of new attitudes and behaviours. What’s more, inertia is likely to set in and impede both current and future efforts.
When you listen to people you may hear them say: “What’s the point, it’s all going to change!”, “We will have to wait until the new structure is in place” or “I’m not leaving now; I may as well hold out for a pay-off.” Once change is announced get on with it. Create a sense of urgency!
The purpose of change is to move an organisation from its present state to one that is more favourable in meeting strategic objectives. When managing change you need to understand the gap between the starting point and the desired outcome. The usual steps are
- Articulating the vision: Reminding everyone of the direction of the organisation – “Where are we going?”
- Developing the Strategy: Planning how this is going to be achieved by developing objectives and goals – “How are we going to get there?”
- Monitoring progress: A cycle of encouraging change and observing progress – “How are we doing?”
Stages of Change
Leaders need to understand what needs to be done to move people on. The different stages of change—denial, resistance, exploration, commitment—all require different strategies. At the denial stage you need to engage with all of your stakeholders in order to explain your vision and how you intend to carry out the strategy. Balance urgency with the need to allow enough time to explain this information and decide what action to take.
When you reach the resistance stage accept it and respond with encouragement and influence. Focus on the big picture and the benefits change brings—take time to listen to what people have to say and gauge how they feel.
When the inevitability of change is gradually accepted—exploration—communicate your plan, set priorities and put in place training and other supporting frameworks.
By the time you reach the commitment stage people will see that the change can work and will be moving forward. This is the time to concentrate on team building, setting objectives, and recognising or rewarding team and individual contributions.
Change is the single most important element of successful business management today. To remain competitive in increasingly aggressive markets, organisations (and individuals in them) have to adopt a positive attitude to change! – Charles Handy
Change will always create significant organisational and individual challenges. Inevitably people will soon realise that their roles and responsibilities are going to change significantly and that changes to their jobs may follow. Therefore it is vital for leaders to understand the human dynamics of change and to act accordingly. That is, to create a sense of urgency.
Have Your Say
A positive attitude, timely communication, good organisation (project management skills) and the ability to inspire are all key attributes of an effective leader. What else is needed to implement successful change?
Creative Commons image courtesy Sarah Cartwright.