More than ever before, 2007 will demand of most companies the ability to achieve measurable results that are specific to profitability, growth, cost containment and operational effectiveness. Of course, none of this will be possible without leadership and organizational change.
This challenge will become a common theme in 2007 that will go uncompromised by the potential market gymnastics that we are likely to face. Without a doubt, success in 2007 will be directly dependent upon both individual and team performance. More importantly however, is the driving force that creates both individual and team effectiveness. That driving force is leadership at every level in the organization. It doesn’t matter what your position is or what your title is. Leadership does not restrict itself to the caste system of power positions we have come to know. Leadership can and must be demonstrated throughout the organization. In my years of experience in wholesale distribution I have met effective leaders at all levels in a company including employees that simply drove a forklift to inside sales people and of course at the CEO level. That withstanding, I have also seen a lack of leadership at every one of those levels I mentioned.
Are You Prepared?
You need to ask the following questions as you contemplate the future direction of your company:
Leaders lead, they are winners. Challenges faced in 2007 will still be subservient to real solutions developed by real leaders. But, it won’t be about theory; it will be about planning and execution. There is no doubt that the New Year will be about change. That’s a good thing. Change shouldn’t be something that happens to you. Effective leaders know this. Effective leaders create change, instigate change and manage change to their advantage to create success.
Not a Spin Zone
That sounds like a bunch of academic tripe and it would be if it stood by itself but I won’t let it. You see, leadership can only be effective if you build a culture engrained with continuous improvement. Change without process, structure and control in itself can turn into uncontrolled chaos. Effective leaders understand this and indoctrinate change as a living breathing organism and process that needs to be embraced by everyone in a positive sense because it is controlled and managed according to your own strategic initiatives. Continuous improvement is a hand on endeavor that requires an investment of time, resources, education and training. It simply isn’t a slogan like “Kaizen” or “Do It Right & Do It Right The First Time”. All that sounds good but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t have the horses to win. It doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t built a roadmap to get from here to where you want to go.
Principles of Effective Change Creation
As a leader you must implement change to create continuous improvement. It’s a hand on process. You can’t lead from afar. A former colleague of mine used to always say; “It’s easy to be brave from a distance. ” Arguably that may be one of the truest statements made when it comes to the instigation of change. Change is hard work. It requires process tools that are sensitive to your organizational culture. Consider these principles for managing change:
Change Can Take on Many Forms
MACHIAVELLI wrote in the forward to “The Prince”;
“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this luke warmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it. ”
Organizations change for many reasons. Change can be the result of a crisis like war, a natural disaster or government intervention. Innovation, technology and external market forces can create change. More importantly, change can be driven by the desire to succeed utilizing performance gap analysis, organizational assessment and the plain old motive of profit being the driving force that instigates man to create change.
Effective leaders know that creating and managing change starts with the human side of the equation. Behavioral change becomes a necessity for almost every success initiative employed. This often means more effective coaching, training, skill development, and accountability. Process improvement is often a platform that supports change in the organization. And last but not least, change becomes a meaningful part of organizational structure and culture. This often requires a realignment of reporting relationships and responsibilities. From an organizational culture perspective, change may demand adjustments to some managerial styles, values and even belief systems to some degree. This is often the most challenging aspect of managing change. The leader may find himself facing the old cliché – “If you can’t change the manager - change the manager. ”
The organizational culture itself must embody a commitment for taking ownership of the strategic vision – end game and raising the performance expectations is a matter of fact and not chance.
Eight Reasons Why Change Efforts Fail
There are eight basic reasons change efforts can fail. Understanding these reasons and avoiding the causes will improve your chances of effectively creating and managing change.
1. Not establishing a great enough sense of urgency - Many executives tell me that they don’t feel the sense of urgency they’d like to see in their employees. If you are going to be effective at creating and managing change, every employee has to be excited enough about the potential results that a real sense of urgency is created. This starts with communicating in vivid detail the reason for change, the results of the expected change and most importantly, how each employee impacts the change and how the change will impact them.
2. Not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition- The specific group you assemble to lead the specifics of the change effort must function as a team. Choose wisely. They must also be empowered with enough authority and responsibility to get the job done. Do not micro manage.
3. Lacking a vision - A vision is imperative to any change process. Exactly where do you expect to go? What is expected to get done and exactly what is the expected outcome. Not having answers to these basic questions is like putting a nail strip across a racetrack.
4. Not communicating the vision - Make sure the vision-end game is communicated with laser like clarity. Even more important is making sure that all employees own the vision and it is not a command sent down from above by the corporate weenies. Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies.
5. Failure to remove obstacles or deal with critical constraints - Don’t fail to kill any “Sacred Cows”. They have no place in strategic growth. If they happen to be family issues – deal with them before you initiate change. Empowering employees to act on the vision is essential. Seek out and identify obstacles to change. This can often be accomplished by identifying critical constraints by doing a SWOT analysis. Get rid of the obstacles and overcome the critical constraints. Eliminate any systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision. Encourage employees to take calculated risk.
6. Not systematically planning and creating short term wins -Plan and create short-term wins. Establish milestones along the way. Praise for progress. Plan for visible performance improvements and then create those improvements and acknowledge the milestone achievement. Apply a reward if the milestone warrants it.
7. Declaring victory too soon - Be careful here. It is desirable to acknowledge short term gains but don’t declare that the battle is over until it’s over. Don’t use your increased credibility to change systems, structures, & policies that don’t fit the vision. Make sure you have the right people in the right seat on the bus.
8. Not anchoring the changes in the organizational culture - To be effective change must become such a part of the culture that it could function on autopilot. Institutionalize the new approaches communicating the connections between the new behaviors and corporate success. Developing the means to ensure leadership development and succession.
Creating, instigating and managing change takes passion and courage. It’s not for the weak of heart. It is not for those who embrace simple traditional expectations. Effective leaders reach beyond these expectations. They become agents of change. Most companies will thrive on the concept of change, achievement, responsibility and accountability. Make it part of your culture - become a C. O. P -Change on Purpose. ”
http://www.ceostrategist.com – Sign up to receive “The Howl” a free monthly newsletter that addresses real world industry issues. – Straight talk about today’s issues. Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution’s “Leadership Strategist”, founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .