Change is one of the few constants (along with taxes and death) upon
which one can depend. Life in the modern world is all about change, and
business and markets are no exception to this rule. Businesses need to
stay aware of and adapt to changing market conditions and demands or
risk becoming irrelevant.
Though change is inevitable, many people (managers and employees
included) find change aversive and actively resist it. They become
comfortable and reliant upon established procedures, thinking that if
procedures have worked in the past they will continue to work in the
future (a dubious assumption). They cease to be motivated to innovate.
Innovation and improvement requires active work and strain whereas just
repeating what has worked in the past requires minimal effort.
Though it may be more comfortable (at least in the short run) to avoid
change, companies that make a habit of doing so frequently suffer
negative consequences, as competitors copy their secrets and steal
their market share. Simply put, a business' failure to adapt to
changing conditions generally means missing opportunities for growth,
and losing established market share.
Leadership is the key to effective organizational change. Leadership's
attitudes towards change determine in large part whether a company's
change efforts will succeed. Up to 75% of corporate change programs
fail, but this high statistic is in large part due to subtle
self-sabotage on the part of leaders who only half-heartedly embrace
the need for change. Instead of denying that change needs to occur,
effective new leaders instead seek to channel the forces of change in
directions that benefit their organization. Though people don't like
change for changes sake they are quite capable of adapting to it, and
will even willingly embrace change when they are properly motivated.
Employees are far more likely to embrace change when they are supported
in taking risks associated with the change and when they come to
believe that participating in the change will improve their working
conditions. One reason people resist change is that they perceive risks
associated with the change. Consequently, actual or perceived risks
associated with changing need to be assessed, removed, and replaced
with a culture of support for appropriate change-associated risk-taking
behavior. Often old-style leadership shoves all the risks to
subordinates while taking few if any risks themselves. New leaders,
however, are willing to absorb risk and help employees take risks of
their own. They analyze conditions and form a vision for what effective
and corrective change should look like. They educate their employees
regarding reasons why changes are necessary and how their vision will
help the company adapt. They actively solicit employees' input
regarding ways to make changes more effective, and then empower their
employees to fulfill the necessary changes through effective
delegation. Finally, they work to consolidate those changes that have
worked into the general company culture, while weeding out those
changes that have proven ineffective. In sum, new leaders realize that
to do their jobs they must be willing to risk their jobs. Employees
will risk more when their leaders are also sharing the risk with them.
Success in managing organizational change depends largely on a
leader's decision to truly lead rather than merely manage. Leaders
break new ground where managers remain committed to working established
fields. Leaders motivate their employees by selling them on a sound and
well thought-out vision and strategy for change, while managers give
orders and expect results. Leaders focus on inspiring people and
promoting teamwork, while managers focus on methods and procedures.
Leaders focus on optimizing the customer experience while managers
focus on the bottom line. While organizations may need both leaders and
managers in order to perpetuate themselves, only leaders are capable of
successful negotiating organizational change.
Leading change is one of the biggest challenges for new leaders.
Improving skills in planning and leading change is a continuing
process. It is best to begin now.