By Dr. Alison Eyring, Chief Executive Officer, Organisation Solutions
Change is everywhere —and it's coming faster and faster as our technology advances and global working becomes the norm. Today’s leaders need to be able to drive performance today yet also transform the business for tomorrow. Over the past 25 years, the focus of my work has been on leading, facilitating, and teaching people about how to create effective change and transformation. I often get asked for my top tips which I’ve summarised here:
- Don't imitate others. There is no magic formula for successful change. What works in one company may not work in another. If anyone tries to convince you there is a "right" way to be structured or managed, stop listening. 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. You can adapt good practice but avoid adopting what someone touts as a "best practice." 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.
- 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. Going slower initially to get this agreement will enable you to go far faster in implementation. 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 confusion and problems getting solved without proper understanding of the bigger picture and strategic context. Be thoughtful about what work needs to be done and decided on at which level of the organisation. This can save 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 put 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 your first three 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 their 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 the organisation. This is especially an issue for leaders from Western cultures working in Asia.
- 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.
- Start today by modelling the 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.
- Create change routines. By creating routines, you can form new ways of working and new mindsets while conserving energy. For example, you could create routines around engaging critical stakeholders in your change or doing an informal shop floor walk every Friday morning or in every location to which you travel to speak to employees and get a sense check of how they are feeling.
Use these eight tips to drive successful change and transformation in your organisation! Learn more about leading change in this "Lead Change Now" video and find out more about Organisation Solution’s change and transformation services.
Dr. Alison Eyring is the Chief Executive Officer of Organisation Solutions. She works closely with global and regional executives from the Fortune/FTSE 500 and some of the world’s most innovative high-growth companies on leadership and growth. A global thought leader on building organisation capacity for growth, she is Adjunct Associate Professor at the NUS Business School. Alison is the author of the award winning book Pacing for Growth: Why intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success. Contact Alison