I am delighted to introduce Pamela Dennis, Ph.D., a long-time friend, colleague, and former owner of Destra Consulting, who has graciously agreed to share her experience and wisdom on the subject of "change-ability" in this guest post.
I work with executives who want to grow their companies, but they’re concerned that creating change will slow things down and make their organizations ponderous.
When it comes to growth, they want their companies to be racehorses, not elephants.
But did you know that elephants, despite being the world’s largest land animal, run up to 25 miles per hour? Usain Bolt, currently the world's fastest human, averaged 23.3 miles per hour in his world record 100-meter race.
Growth and size don’t always have to make companies slow and unwieldy.
In my experience, the critical factor is having a company that possesses “change-ability” – the natural capability for speed and agility in response to an ever-changing environment.
The 3 Most Important Drivers of “Change-ability”
How do you create a company with speed and agility while at the same time maintaining current advantage? Your company must have these core abilities:
This is the third post in my series on meaningful engagement. You can check out the other two posts in the series here:
Meaningful engagement and the co-creation of change can produce much more commitment than simple buy-in can.
Organizations that settle for buy-in, rather than aspire to meaningful engagement, miss out on the opportunity to:
- Deepen commitment to the change process
- Stimulate co-creation of solutions
- Build business literacy and other important business skills, and
- Accelerate the pace of change.
I define meaningful engagement as:
“Any authentic involvement that allows people to make consequential contributions to the process and the outcome of a change and deepens their understanding of it, their commitment to it, and their ownership of it.”
As I wrote in Meaningful Engagement vs. Buy-In: What's the Difference and Why Should I Care?, leader commitment – including the belief that ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions and the willingness to commit time, effort, and resources to enable them to do so – is the pivotal difference between enabling meaningful engagement and settling for buy-in.
Without a leader’s resolute commitment to authentic involvement, the full measure of meaningful engagement will not be realized.
If we know that meaningful engagement is what we want and need in our organizations, how do we go about creating it?
In my previous post Meaningful Engagement vs. Buy-In: What's the Difference and Why Should I Care?, I posed two questions.
- “… why do we continue to manage change in ways that do not truly engage people and foster conditions where “meaningful engagement” can occur commonly?
- Why do we continue to settle for “buy-in” when we want and actually need much more?"
I suggested five reasons why many organizations settle for buy-in rather than aspire to meaningful engagement. I refer you to the previous post for the specifics (Buy-In vs. Engagement: What’s the Difference and Why Should I Care?). Briefly, though, I argued that buy-in more often triumphs as the objective of change management because it doesn’t require the same level of leader or manager commitment that meaningful engagement does. Aiming for buy-in just doesn’t demand as much time and effort and, in the end, expediency wins.
BUT, and it’s a big but, I argued that tacit buy-in doesn’t produce nearly as much commitment as meaningful engagement and the co-creation of change can. Done right, meaningful engagement in organizational change has the potential to:
- Strengthen everyone’s understanding of the need for and direction of change
- Deepen commitment to the change process and objectives
- Stimulate co-creation of solutions
- Build business literacy and other important business skills
- Accelerate the pace of change, and
- Propel the change beyond the envisioned outcome
In this post, we’ll continue this exploration of meaningful engagement and pose two additional questions.
- How does meaningful engagement produce more than simple buy-in?
- What are the dynamics at work?
Many years ago, I came across a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. It read, “Change imposed is change opposed.” A consulting firm that was promoting its change management practice had placed the ad. It held my attention for a long time. I had been familiar for years with the adage “People support what they help to create.” I’d quoted it many times and thought it conveyed what people leading change needed to know about the essence of change management.
However, this new statement conveyed the idea more directly - even bluntly. It caused me to think about how many organizations go about managing change and it caused me to wonder the following all the more.
If imposing change provokes opposition and people do in fact support what they help to create, then why do we continue to manage change in ways that do not truly engage people and do not foster conditions where “meaningful engagement” can occur commonly? Why do we continue to settle for “buy-in” when we want and need so much more? Continue reading
Leading change is challenging enough even when your job title is President or Chief Executive Officer. However, when your title isn’t President or Chief anything and you lead in the mid-level of your organization, leading change is even more challenging. That’s because:
- YOU didn’t get to decide on the change
- YOU didn’t get to set the vision
- YOU may or may not have been involved in developing the change plan or the messaging
- But YOU ARE expected to execute the change for the unit you lead
What can you do to lead change effectively in the middle? Continue reading
Effective change doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of careful planning and thoughtful execution. Leaders play a pivotal role in change because they possess legitimate power to authorize the change, establish the vision, provide direction and resources, and hold organizational members accountable. Everyone looks to the leader for guidance and that person must model the way for the rest of the organization.
Change would be a much tidier process if that were all it took – an effective leader who knows what to do and how to do it and is at the front leading the charge.
But as important as the leader’s role is, it isn’t the leader who ultimately executes change. Change (from simple to complex) is always a matter of people in impacted areas making the transition from the way things are now to the way they’re supposed to be in the future.
Transition at the people level involves, among other things:
- Answering their questions about why and what it will mean for them
- Describing how things will be in the future
- Helping them understand whether or not they will be in that future
- Involving them to co-create that future
- Providing a credible plan for moving forward that speaks to them at their level
- Communicating frequently and reliably about what’s happening now and what will happen next
- Learning new skills and applying new knowledge
- Becoming part of a new work group
How does this all get done? Who is leading the charge on this? More to the point, who should be leading the charge on this? Continue reading
Leading change is too difficult and complicated to accomplish alone. It requires a support network to augment your personal sponsorship and direct leadership. Much has been written about building an effective sponsor network and it’s all relevant and true. However, there is a significant resource at your disposal that is often over-looked and untapped.
In today’s world, the pace of organizational change has increased dramatically and there’s no end in sight. This pace is being driven by escalating competition, globalization (including emerging economies like BRICS), the pace of technical innovation, and the demand for ever-increasing improvement in performance. Ultimately, this means that leaders have to execute change in timeframes that are increasingly shorter.
Given this challenging set of circumstances, what’s a leader to do?