Change is the only thing we can count on to be truly constant. To stay healthy and competitive, an organization must constantly respond and adapt to changing internal and external conditions, including opportunities, trends, and threats. If a leader is to remain at the helm, he or she must learn to manage change effectively, rather than be managed by it. This requires the ability to effectively and efficiently navigate challenging change transformations while continuing to leverage and allocate resources appropriately to support business fundamentals.
While other factors certainly exist that can affect the outcome, the leader’s role is primary. The leader’s ability to communicate relevant ideas, motivate team members, and be an inspiring role model throughout the change transformation can make or break its success; the leader literally bridges the gap between the organization and its desired outcome.
Because 70 percent of change management initiatives fail to achieve sustainable success, the question executives should be asking is: Why do some leaders struggle to effect change and why do others make the process seem effortless?
Four Key Principles of Successful Change Management
Successful organizational change involves four essential principles. Effective change leaders focus on all four to effect the change and achieve the outcomes they desire:
- Clear vision. Having clearly defined and clearly articulated goals is essential for acquiring employee and stakeholder buy-in. Leaders should not underestimate the importance of good communication and creating a vision that inspires.
- Accountability. Leaders must hold both themselves and others accountable. However, a culture of blame will only get in the way of transformation efforts. Instead, infusing transparency and integrity into the company culture will create an environment where accountability is expected and becomes virtually automatic.
- Accessibility. To be effective, both good communication and accountability require understanding. Only a leader who maintains connection with employees can hope to understand them. We have noticed that the change leaders who experience the greatest success tend to be those who encourage and initiate meaningful interaction between themselves and employees. Being approachable and accessible clues them in to what people really think and feel, which allows for greater alignment between initiatives and capabilities.
- Alignment. Organization change is a complex process. Typically, several or many functions or groups within the organization must work closely together to achieve desired results. Even a small misalignment to strategy in any one group or area can interfere with the process, sometimes severely. To be effective, a leader must follow strategy development with alignment. When all parts of the organization are aligned with strategy, it is far easier to achieve viable and sustainable results.
Change transformation is a challenging endeavor. Leaders who follow these four key principles are far better equipped to fulfill their key role in keeping organization change running smoothly and efficiently. By effectively managing change rather than allowing it to manage them, they earn the respect of stakeholders and employees alike, and increase their odds of creating organizational change that is both profitable and sustainable.