8 Tips to Make Change Work

8 Tips to Make Change Work

Change has become ubiquitous—and it's coming faster. Over the past 25 years, the focus of my work has been on leading, facilitating, and teaching people about how to create effective change. The following summarises my key insights, and I invite you to view the "Lead Change Now" video we recently produced to help inspire leaders to create and nurture successful change.

Consider the following 8 tips when leading and / or facilitating change:

Don't imitate others. There is no magic formula for successful change. What works in one company may not work in another. You are far better testing out small ideas to see if they'll work in your own organisation than you are hiring a consultant to tell you what "best practices" are.

Create a shared view. Invest time up front to be clear to yourself and others what you are changing and what it will look like when you have achieved 100 percent success. Engage key stakeholders in this process. To the extent possible, include people who will be responsible for implementing the change in this process of defining what right looks like.

Delegate the work only as far as you can and no further. Sometimes, leaders have great intentions to engage and empower their staff during times of change. This is great. But, it also can lead to too much confusion and problems getting solved without proper understanding of the bigger picture and strategic context. When leading change, be very thoughtful about what work needs to be done and decided on at which level of the organisation. This can save great headaches later.

Attend to the 4Rs. If your change involves creating a new structure, be sure to define roles, responsibilities, interrelationships of functions, and rights of decisions BEFORE the new structure is in place. Confusion around these 4Rs creates anxiety, which in turn increases resistance. This is particularly important when merging companies or functions.

Understand your company's change history. If you are brand new to the company, avoid making significant changes for 3-6 months. Recently, someone told me about their company's 100-day policy for new leaders. The rule was that new leaders could not make significant changes for 100 days. During the first 100 days they are to study and discover their organisation. Then they build a plan and review it with their boss who will coach them. You may think you are shaking things up when you are really showing how little you understand about the organisation. This is especially an issue for managers from a Western culture.

Use multiple change strategies. You need a portfolio. For example, couple a top-down strategic alignment process with bottom-up feedback and individual development; couple large-group alignment conferences with team-based interventions. Using just one change strategy often has unintended, negative consequences. At the same time, doing too many different types of change at the same time exhausts already stretched staff. Find the right balance.

Stop benchmarking your competitors. Your people and organisation will only become a source of competitive advantage if they help differentiate you and are hard to imitate by your competitors. If anyone tries to convince you there is a "right" way to be structured or managed, stop listening. You can adapt good practice but avoid adopting what someone touts as a "best practice."

Start today by modelling behaviours you'd like to see in the organisation. Large-scale change is complex and requires many kinds of efforts to make it work. But the power of one cannot be underestimated. You can simply start today. This practice is especially useful in organisations with cynicism or change fatigue.

I hope you find these tips useful. Leverage these and other learnings to make sure your change efforts succeed!

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