Change is simple; just close your eyes, hold your breath, and wait. It happens.
Effective change management, on the other hand, takes some skill. From my view of the world, 3 things are necessary for senior executives to successfully drive positive change:
1. Belief and commitment. You gotta believe — really believe — that what you are doing is right and appropriate, using a variety of litmus tests. Mid-management, supervisors, and/or line employees will quickly detect if your commitment is anything but resolute.
Change management isn’t for the weak at heart, so strap in, point the way, and hold the course (I always wanted to use that line).
2. Provide direction. Even if people can believe in your resolve, and even if they understand the basic need, they need real direction, from YOU, to know where to head. Don’t expect overnight adjustment and buy-in to your newfound commitment for change; until that real buy-in occurs, they need a really good map — a compass is probably a better word — to help them start off in the right direction.
Point the way. With credibility.
If you don’t have the credibility… well, I have some bad news. Your change efforts will not succeed.
3. Unqualified support for the cause. Pay attention here, this one’s really, really important. Not only can you not afford to lose your focus (see “commitment” above), but you must insist others join in the quest.
You must insist.
Help them work through their issues, convince — as best as possible — for the need to change. At the end, though, the change must occur, and you must be prepared to make all those decisions necessary, some good, some tough, to make it happen.
Naysayers can be a fatal distraction. Disbelievers can poison an effective team. Misdirected managers can ruin the entire effort. Make sure you stay aware, and be prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure the focus is maintained by all.
The enemy (market, economy, industry, whatever) is upon us; we have work to do, and some unique challenges facing us.
Time to charge that hill… and like the real generals of old, organizations charge best and most successful when their leaders are out front.