Successful change and leadership

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It is common that at this time of year leaders come back from a break looking to start the New Year making changes, such as modifying a process or system or changing the organisation structure. While there will be business and economic drivers for making these changes, the challenge is always how to implement the change as effectively as possible.

Employees are key to the successful implementation of a change programme and having a communication plan that ensures open, honest, timely and relevant communication is essential. Ensuring employees understand what the drivers are for the changes, what is changing and what is not and indicative timelines is a must.

As part of the communications plan it is important to carefully consider the various target audiences for change communications, ensuring that both formal and change influencers in the organisation are identified and engaged early.

Formal influencers are people in the organisation that have the formal/structural authority to lead the changes such as the CEO, general managers and team leaders. It is vital that formal influencers are committed to the changes, are clear about the vision for the change and can articulate this vision naturally, in their own words. The more clearly a Formal Influencer can articulate the vision and what it will be like for everyone to be involved in the new ways of working, the faster their direct reports will adopt the changes being made.

Change influencers are those people who influence others in the organisation regardless of their title or role. A change influencer may initially have a dissenting or opposing view to the changes. Speaking with a change influencer early in the change process can provide the opportunity for the person to challenge the rationale for change directly with a leader which will help that person understand why the changes are necessary. Through this discussion ideally differences of opinion and misunderstandings will be resolved early in the change process. Once a shared understanding about the changes has been reached, change influencers can become strong advocates for change and help share the rationale and benefits of the change throughout the organisation. Change influencers play a key role in the successful implementation of change.

All too often, the opportunity to work with change influencers is lost or over looked. During the change process sometimes these individuals are invited to “get off the bus” before any effort is made to harness the potential value they can add. Rather than asking them to “get off the bus” we suggest identifying them early, having a conversation with them first and seeing where it goes.

Using formal and change influencers to deliver and articulate key messages about changes within an organisation is critical. Without them you cannot successfully lead or implement change.

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About Author

Greg Cateley

Human Resource Specialist, Everest Group. Waikato HR specialists / www.everestgroup.co.nz