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What Principles and Aspects Are Key to Effective Change Management Leadership?

December 18, 2013

It is not uncommon to come across organizational development professionals struggling to understand what differences exist between “change management” and “change leadership.” The two concepts are closely related, but the two differ with the size and scope of the change needed.  Change management is associated with so-called small changes in the work environment, while change leadership is particularly concerned with major changes to the organization’s hierarchy.

In this post I’m going to delve deeper into the concept of change management. What principles govern it and what aspects does it capture? 

Change Management - What Methodology to Adopt?

No single methodology fits every company. However, there is a set of practices and techniques that can be adopted, and be adaptable, in a variety of situations. For instance any significant change must always be guided by the organization’s readiness and capacity to accommodate change. Additionally, change efforts must involve different levels of the organization. It also goes without saying that articulation of a formal case for change needs to be always accompanied by a comprehensive vision statement to create leadership-team alignment. 

Those fueling the change must highly perform during the transformation to create critical mass among the workforce in support of change. This calls for more than just passive agreements that the path of change is acceptable. It requires ownership by strategic leaders willing to accept responsibility for actualizing the change in their areas of control. Ownership of change is best reinforced by incentives and rewards – ranging from tangible rewards such as financial compensation to psychological incentives such as a sense of shared destiny. 

Too often, those leading change commit the mistake of believing that others share the same need to change. This however entirely wrong and change programs need to be preceded by good communication. This communication needs to be timely, inspirational and practicable. 

Thorough cultural diagnostics is yet another mandatory procedure to be performed before introducing change to an organization. One should be explicit about the underlying culture that will best support the change. 

Lastly, change is often more of an individual nature than an institutional one. Therefore, any amendments to the organizational structure need to be communicated individually to all those concerned. People need to know what is expected of them during and post change, how their workplace will change, etc. Change management leadership should be as explicit and honest as possible.

How then does one lead the changing of an organization?

The key to successful, embedded and sustained change lies in altering the environment around the people the change targets. There are 8 aspects that comprise this environment (and which are common targets when it comes to initiating change). These include:

  • The structure of the organization 
  • The workplace’s physical and virtual environment
  • Workflow and task processes (WalkMe can help with direct and immediate assistance in completing online tasks)
  • The skills, talent and qualities of the people 
  • The manner of issuing incentives and/or rewards
  • The modalities of measuring different metrics adopted in the organization
  • The manner in which information is distributed across different hierarchy levels of the organization’s chart.
  • Allocation of decisions to key persons within the organization

To sum it up, there are quite a couple of aspects and principles that are key to prosperity of any change management leadership. But the few concepts we’ve outlined above are the most important ones to keep in mind.

Christopher Smith is editor of the blog Change, which looks at the issues and ideas relating to change management, performance management, and organizational transition. Follow him on Twitter at @changemblog.

Edited by Alisen Downey