Filling your change management tool box

Your must-haves for success

Change management is a challenge. It must be planned carefully and executed well, the right tools identified and used, and effective leadership styles applied. It’s the difference between failing and becoming extinct, and building a better future of success.

Harvard Business Review reports that one of the reasons organisations fail to implement successful change is because they have misdiagnosed the true change priorities. Without robust reporting, you’re essentially putting your ladder against the wrong change wall. In other words, companies sometimes focus too heavily and get caught up on the how to change, comparing plan A to plan B with recommended timelines and expected output.

When really, they first need to identify the priorities based on available data and facts. A robust business management system is often the easy way to gather those facts – it will let you work out what to change and the true needs of the business.

Once you’ve locked down what needs to be changed, only then should you focus on exactly how you’re going to do it. Depending on your needs, you can harness a mix of leadership styles and the tools that go along with them. Here we outline the key approaches you could take – the mix and prevalence of each that you choose will depend on the needs of your people and the journey you have ahead.

"“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates"

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Visionary Leadership Style – painting the picture

A visionary leader moves people toward shared dreams or objectives. It’s most appropriate when any change requires a completely new vision, or when clear direction is needed.

Dr John Kotter, and other leadership educationalists such as Daniel Goleman, talk about ‘principle’ leadership and change requirements. Amongst these principles is creating a strategic vision, being a visionary leader, and providing the bigger picture as an advantage before, during and after change.

What you’ll need in your toolbox:

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The right information

Business management systems can help generate a crystal-clear picture for leaders to share a vision. Whether leaders require a top-level dashboard or comprehensive detail, the information is right at their fingertips to share with necessary stakeholders.

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Empathy

How would you rate your empathy level from a low 1 to a high 5? Daniel Goleman in The New Leaders, says “The ability to sense how others feel and to understand their perspectives means that a leader can articulate a truly inspirational vision. A leader who misreads people simply can’t inspire them.” Similarly, a significant chunk of change management is dealing with emotions and how people react to decisions. When armed with comprehensive data-backed answers, managers can better manage the ups and downs of organisational behaviour.

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Storytelling

Numbers and statistics are useful, but sometimes you need to go beyond the PowerPoint and humanise the issues. Storytelling can mean developing a literal brand story, but it could also involve physical representations – for example, a stack of printed purchase orders to show how wasteful a process is – or meetings with others affected by the change. Bringing change to life through storytelling can help your people understand why it’s necessary, and help them get over any discomfort with upcoming disruption.

"Bringing change to life through storytelling can help your people understand why it’s necessary, and help them get over any discomfort with upcoming disruption."

Pacesetting Leadership Style – picking up the pace

Developing a sense of urgency creates energy, innovation and, if done well, a sense of shared purpose. This window of opportunity means you need a pacesetting leadership style, and tools to help you stay nimble and act quickly. It’s all about timing.

In ‘8 Steps to Accelerate Change’, Dr Kotter says developing a sense of urgency is key. And that makes sense – long, drawn out goals are demotivating and uninspiring for most people.

A pacesetting leader needs challenging and exciting goals that are best used to get high-quality results from a motivated and competent team.

With key information in your back pocket, you can communicate the goals and help others achieve them. You have a deeper understanding of the organisational behaviour that currently exists, and therefore you can detect the best way forward.

What you’ll need in your toolbox:

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Communication

Can you set a smart pace, and actively listen, and clearly communicate? If not, you may barrel ahead without bringing your people with you. Cloud-based business management systems can help – it will give you the information you need to communicate exactly why change is occurring.

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Information on tap

Looking for a change catalyst that is advanced, intuitive and provides key information when you need it, means new opportunities can be seized that much quicker. Not just new opportunities, but better opportunities.

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Checks and balances

When you’re working at base, you need to know you’re on track. Using integrated software allows you to analyse data across your entire operation, giving you performance indicators every step of the way. This lets you check milestones on the go, and compare historical and current data.

"Dr Kotter says developing a sense of urgency is key. And that makes sense – long, drawn out goals are demotivating and uninspiring for most people. "

Coaching Leadership Style – connecting the dots

Coaches are people who you want to win for; they inspire you to think and act in a better way by helping you understand your role and responsibilities in the team.

Now apply that to a situation of organisational change management. Good coaches build strong teams who are committed to the success of the collective group – the coaching style is especially important when you’re looking to undo a negative work culture, or recover from an organisational set back.

Coaching leadership style connects what a person wants with the organisation’s goals. It has a high, positive impact on the work climate, and helps employees improve their performance by building long-term capabilities.

What you’ll need in your toolbox:

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A ‘whiteboard’

No coaches worth their salt go without some sort of whiteboard to help them set out the play. It helps the team connect the dots and comprehend why change needs to happen – again, software can help, allowing staff to create dashboards or reports of timely, accurate information. Overall organisational behaviour is improved by understanding a myriad of information that is shared in and around a team that you need to drive change.

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A feedback and recognition loop

To sustain behavioural change you need motivation, feedback and recognition – whether that’s money, praise or a promotion. While much of this can be done intrapersonally, systems that measure KPIs – hard numbers that tell your team they’re excelling – can also be incredibly rewarding.

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Confidence

Giving people confidence takes confidence. While a deep belief in your direction and in your team can deliver this, accurate, up to date numbers can also help.

"Overall organisational behaviour is improved by understanding a myriad of information that is shared in and around a team that you need to drive change."

The what and the how of change management

There’s an old saying, “A good workman never blames his tools” – but you need the right tools in the first place.

When it comes to change management, ensuring your toolbox is full of the right equipment tells you the ‘what’ of change, and will make the ‘how’ much easier to come by.

The reality is that people will always react to change. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it’s just plain awful. Master the art of becoming the right kind of leader for the problem and the people you’re overseeing, and you will be rewarded with loyalty and commitment – and a change management process that doesn’t just create excellent outcomes, but keeps people engaged and happy along the way.

To gain more insight into improving business systems, talk to a MYOB consultant.