1. Address “Human Side” of Change. Anticipate “people issues.” Job descriptions will change, new skills and capabilities will be needed, and employees will be resistant. Dealing with these issues on a reactive, case-by-case basis puts speed, morale, and results at risk. Develop a game plan early.
2. Executive Team Needs to Speak in One Voice. All eyes will turn to the CEO and the leadership team for strength, reassurance, and direction. The leaders themselves must embrace the new approaches first and they must model the desired behaviors. Internally they should undergo process of aligning and committing to the change initiative before presenting to the rank-and-file.
3. Involve Everyone. As change progresses from defining strategy and setting targets to tactics and execution, they affect different levels of the organization. Change efforts must push responsibility “out”, so that change “cascades” through the organization. “Cascading leadership” methodology, training and supporting teams at each stage is a recipe for avoiding late-stage bottlenecks. It is also a superb way for a company to identify its next-gen leaders.
4. Make Your Case. Employees will look to the leadership team for rationale. Three steps should be followed in developing a formal case for change: Confront reality by being brutally honest, demonstrate faith that the company has a viable future, and finally, provide a road map for transformation.
5. Create Ownership. Leaders must behave as zealots who quickly create a critical mass among the staff in favor of change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement, it demands ownership by leaders in their areas of influence. Ownership is often best created by involving people in identifying problems and crafting solutions. It is reinforced by incentives and rewards.
6. Over-Communicate. Too often, change leaders make the fundamental mistake of believing that employees understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the gameplan. The best change programs reinforce core messages at the right time and to solicit employee feedback. This will require constant, practical communication through redundant channels.
7. Adapt for Culture. By aligning the new vision to core values and organizational uniqueness, successful change programs pick up speed as they cascade down. Leaders should identify, model and reward the new behaviors expected in the organization — an effective way to jump-start culture change.
8. Expect the Unexpected. No transformation goes according to plan. People react in unexpected ways, it usually takes longer, your worst fears are not realized, resistance comes from unexpected areas and the market shifts. Fed by real data from the employees and the sales teams, and supported by information and solid decision-making processes, change leaders should make mid-stream adjustments to keep momentum.
9. It is All About Emotions. Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. But they dwell excessively on the plans and processes, which don’t talk back, rather than face up to the more difficult and more critical human issues.
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