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Change is Not a Destination But a Process

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The facilitation of change is not the responsibility of any single individual, but is guided and directed by leadership on many different levels. Because change is dynamic, leadership must be equally so to keep pace with the opportunities and challenges it brings.

Leaders must understand change is not a destination but a process. The global economy does not allow leaders the luxury of resting on their laurels. Rather, it gives them the impetus to change and adapt on a frequent and regular basis. A failure to adapt opens the door to the forces of change overwhelming an organization.

A “management mentality” in the face of change produces a specific outcome, which is essentially to ask, “The organization is changing—now what?”

Leaders on the other hand become the real and active facilitators of change. They understand the forces behind it and use its dynamics as a means to effectively and repeatedly transform their organization. Rather than fear the concept of change, leaders welcome the opportunities it affords them.

Facilitating change within any organization requires proactive participation from all of its leaders. In the dynamic atmosphere of change, leaders must be ever-present and visible. There are a number of proven leadership techniques one can employ to successfully facilitate change within their organization, including:

Promoting Their Vision Daily

The importance of the leader’s personal vision is a guiding and fundamental leadership principle. It is not sufficient for leaders to simply state their vision; they must actively promote and talk about it at every opportunity. It is necessary for leaders to continually remind employees of their direction as they guide them step-by-step through the processes, transitions, problems and successes en route to attaining their vision.

As changes occur within an organization, leaders must take advantage of every opportunity to spotlight events and people in order to showcase individual and group initiatives demonstrating progress toward the defined vision.

Leading by Personal Example

One of the most valuable resources available to a leader is time. Time is at a premium, and leaders must schedule carefully to achieve what is personally important to them. When employees see that their leaders are organized around the strategic priorities established to facilitate change, it communicates that they are in earnest about their personal initiatives.

As a general practice, leaders need to adjust their personal calendars to reflect the strategic priorities of facilitating change. This communicates that the leader is leading with action to back up their words, as they are focusing their time specifically upon the point of change.

Practicing Visible Leadership

Leaders cannot lead from behind a desk or office door. They must be present at the point of change to train, coach, cajole and comfort.

Leaders can only observe and learn when they are in the midst of their employees during the implementation of change. This is not a one-time event, but an ongoing exercise. This is why the efficient scheduling of time is critical if leaders want to be actively involved in the direct facilitation of change transformations.

Being a Compulsive Listener

Leaders have one primary responsibility: to go out and listen to their employees. It should not be done in a passive style of listening, but one where leaders actively engage their employees, learn from their frustrations, take action to clean up a particular stressful or unproductive situation, and enthusiastically encourage each one of them. The process of facilitating change requires that leaders make it an ongoing habit to actively listen and make necessary changes based upon what they specifically learn and observe.

Honoring Your Frontline Staff

Leaders understand that the point of change happens in the front lines of their organization. While it impacts the entire organization, the front lines are the apex of change. This is where its real impact is felt—and where leaders must directly focus their time, efforts and attention.

In this regard, leaders should be honoring their frontline employees. They accomplish this by celebrating all major and minor successes and learning from failures as they test new ideas and concepts.

Delegating

When leaders delegate they are not only freeing up valuable time, they are empowering and training others to perform key tasks. Proper delegation allows leaders to be more responsive to the needs of their organization because they can get out from under tasks demanding their time and hindering their ability to lead. The key to successful delegation is the maintenance of high standards for those the leader designates to perform the delegated work.

Managing Horizontally

When leaders manage horizontally, they are opening up communications and responsiveness at the front lines of their organization, and across multiple functions. This minimizes the delays of bureaucratic up and down communications and replaces it with faster frontline communications across functional boundaries. This allows leaders to test, try, modify, and act on ideas quickly, and facilitates change more rapidly at its apex and focal point.

Questioning Daily Progress

It is easy for leaders to mask a number of functions, items and agendas under the label of change. An effective leader constantly questions his or her progress on a daily basis and asks, “What exactly have I changed?”

Rather than measuring progress over time, leaders understand that facilitating change involves countless decisions and minor changes that produce organizational modifications, alterations or elimination of unproductive practices across many planes and avenues. They are more pragmatic about looking at specific daily changes to ensure that transformations are taking place throughout their organization.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

While the nature of change brings about its own sense of pressure, leaders must continually reinforce their personal sense of urgency to overcome all of the potentially paralyzing fears employees may experience due to change and its compelling nature. Every action and activity a leader undertakes must also be viewed as an unequivocal call for urgency in the pursuit of constant testing and improvement in subsequent change transformations throughout the organization.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Managers as Facilitators of Change

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

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It is difficult to predict leaders’ responses to change, as they must continually be on guard for unpredictable occurrences and forces, and in some cases immediately respond to a series of unknown and unanticipated events and circumstances. The only certainty is that change will occur, and leaders must be at the forefront of the process regardless of circumstances and apprehensions.

Change undoubtedly poses a challenge to every leader. This is because it can be anticipated only to the degree that it is predictable. Long-term changes and trends can be generally anticipated, but these changes are often complicated by numerous factors and elements continually altering and transforming themselves at varying rates of speed.

The concept of change also demands that leaders embrace stability and instability within the organization as it transforms itself. Several strategies that leaders need to employ during periods of change include:

Being Visible

The very nature of leadership demands that leaders be actively involved in their organizational unit. Leadership does not emanate from behind a desk or within an office. Leaders must be active and visible in the front lines of their business. Only when leaders are out and about among their employees can they see and feel the pace of progress, and witness firsthand the problems their employees are encountering.

Testing

Paces of change and organizational transformations demand that countless ideas be constantly generated and experimented with at all levels. Undoubtedly, some ideas will fail and some will succeed. The only way leaders can sort out the winners from the losers is by constantly applying new ideas and concepts on the line to test for feasibility and adaptability to their organization.

Listening

As leaders become increasingly visible, it is important that they simultaneously begin to develop listening forums where everyone within their organizational unit is sharing new ideas, celebrating minor successes and learning from small failures. This increases the synergy between employees, builds and solidifies team bonds, and enhances overall organizational cohesiveness.

Appreciating Failure

As aforementioned, an organization’s response to change as it transforms itself implies countless new ideas and concepts are being experimented with on a regular basis. Leaders know that constant experimentation means that they must test concepts, ideas and strategies rapidly—fail or succeed fast—and adjust quickly.

Active leaders must immediately discard bad ideas and learn from their failures. However, no idea can be deemed good or bad unless it has been adequately tested. The key is to learn from the failures and quickly move on to the next idea, building knowledge and expertise from a continual string of ineffective results, failures and shortcomings.

Taking Action

Leaders in the fast pace of change must be proactive rather than reactive. They cannot let the organizational bureaucracy interfere with the progress of their organizational unit. At times they must actively work against this bureaucracy when it regulates or inhibits the testing and experimentation of new ideas and concepts.

Effective leaders do not only involve their frontline employees in concept, idea and method experimentation, they encourage the participation of multi-functional teams as well, and work to get them fully involved in the process.

Learning from Customers

Leaders have learned that the external influence of the customer is a stabilizing factor in the midst of change. Successful leaders interact with their customers, and encourage employees at all levels to do the same. This can be accomplished through scheduled customer visits to the organization for discussions, observations and feedback, and by sending representatives out to the customer’s business. Once there, their job is to objectively observe exactly how specific products and services are being used and applied. They also interpret what problems occur and why, as well as each one’s impact on various time factors.

This allows leaders to cross-pollinate ideas and concepts throughout the organization so that all involved have mutual goals and objectives, increasing the overall quality of the product and its value to the customer.

Additionally, employee exposure to their customers makes daily tasks and assignments more tangible. Employees are able to see how the product they produce is used. This increases empowerment and overall responsibility toward the customer.

Making It Fun

The concept of change and accompanying process of organizational transformation are stressful. Most leaders have learned that they can ease stress by making certain elements of the process “fun.” This is not to say that leaders create a jovial and joking atmosphere, but that there is pleasure and enjoyment in accomplishing something together as a team and sharing interesting failures and mistakes in a non-critical atmosphere. It means keeping things light, celebrating the little successes, and using them to build on others to the accomplishment of mutual goals and objectives.

Change will throw many curves at an organization. It takes large doses of flexibility and participation to adapt to these trials. It also helps if leaders and employees lighten up at times where stress is at its highest, which helps to reduce the urge to take things far too seriously.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change – Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about techniques to facilitate change, refer to Facilitating Change – Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

July 28, 2011 at 11:54 am

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