Strategic Planning

Change Management Strategies for the Innovative Leader

You can’t change that…can you? If there’s one constant in the world of business, it’s the necessity for change. With new markets emerging daily and technology advancing, seemingly at the speed of light, change management strategies are essential just to stay competitive.

But, that doesn’t make organizational change any easier to embrace, especially when only 54 percent of major change initiatives find success.

But don’t let the 50-50 odds hold you back — effective change management is possible!

While no one is denying that organizational change can be an uphill battle, the challenge isn’t insurmountable. If the Tortoise could beat the Hare, and the Little Engine That Could did, then you can enact effective change management.

What is change management?

Simply put, change management involves creating a long-term plan that will help take your business from point A to a more successful point B. While this sounds simple on paper, it can be hard to execute without the proper tools and techniques to manage the people-side of business change. After all, culture plays a huge role in the success and sustainability of effective change management.

Culture is everything

According to Lou Gerstner, AKA the man who saved IBM, “culture is everything.” Research agrees— according to a 2013 Culture and Change Management survey, 84 percent of respondents believe culture is critical to business success, and 60 percent consider it more important than actual strategy or operating model.

So, ignoring company culture isn’t a viable option. Effective change management taps into what people are already doing, thinking and feeling, and identifies any common threads that can be used to sew existing culture into the change initiative. By intertwining the two, you give your employees an emotional stake in the process, which is imperative to success.

You need all hands on deck

Effective change management first requires a meeting of the minds in the C-Suite. By collaborating early, these high-ranking leaders can develop a strong game plan and learn how to effectively communicate that plan to each other—and to everyone else.

But even the most promising rollout can grind to a screeching halt without the input of midlevel and frontline employees. Often, transitions simply trickle down from the C-Suite with little explanation, leaving employees on the frontline frustrated and confused. As a result, changes don’t go smoothly, production falters, and those frustrated frontliners end up on the losing end of the blame game with management.

As the people who will enact the bulk of the change, lower-level employees can provide real-world perspective, identify potential stumbling blocks and predict customer reactions. While involving them in the planning stages may take more time initially, their valuable input can save you untold time, effort, and money later on, when avoidable mistakes lead to unnecessary headaches—and costs.

You’re in it for the long haul

Putting a directive in place won’t change the company overnight. Change starts at the top, so identify daily behaviors that are critical to the change initiative and model those behaviors from a position of leadership. If your staff sees change being implemented effectively at the executive and management levels, they will be more likely to follow suit.

Be prepared to go the distance. Change initiatives are often communicated enthusiastically at the time of rollout, but many business leaders fail to sustain that level of communication after the major directives have been put in place. It’s imperative that communication channels remain open throughout the process, and that information is available through a variety of channels—the more the better.

Recognize that strategic business objectives aren’t enough to motivate your employees. You have to give them a reason to care. Find ways to bring everyone together as a team. Create a sense of accountability and loyalty between departments and help everyone feel they have an emotional stake in the success of the company.

Engage the power players

An effective change management strategy recognizes that some of the most influential leaders in the company are out on the floor and on the frontline. By identifying these influencers, you can harness their power for the good of the company. These power players include:

  • Motivators, who take pride in their work, always go the extra mile, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Informers, who have their finger on the pulse of the company culture and serve as the go-to sources of information about what’s really going on in the company.
  • Ambassadors, who instinctively understand the importance of your change initiative and will communicate that information to colleagues in a way everyone can understand.

Stay vigilant

Sure, you love it when a plan comes together, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Even if all signs point to success, it’s important to continuously monitor changes and identify which change management strategies are working—and which are not. This will allow you to adjust your strategy and improve results over time. Gather all the tools, team members, and resources you need to not only create a change management strategy but to also implement and track its progress.

Cara Ong

Cara has over 15 years of experience in business and product management. She is a highly organized, results-driven, strategic executive and entrepreneur with a positive attitude towards work and life.

Cara is passionate about helping organizations find effective solutions and providing forward-thinking strategies to help them achieve their goals of operational efficiency.

In her free time, Cara enjoys acrylic painting and golf.

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