Category Archives: Change Management

All aspects of Change Management in organisations

Strategic Change Management

Strategic Change Management is a deliberate system of changing people processes and tools to achieve organizational goals which align well with the aspirations of the team members.

Basics of Change Management

The Conceptual Construct         Change management is based on accepting the vitality of the first  15% of effort in identify what needs to be changed in people, processes and tools in any organization. If this aspect does not have a wide acceptability and the ownership of ideas is not transferred to people, the processes will never get refined whatever tools we use.

This underscores the dynamic, participative and vibrant “energisation” of people to challenge the status quo as a tool to excite the processes. Once suitable energy is transmitted to the environment, out of the box solutions appear from nowhere to augment the staid thinking in an organization. The key word is “excitement” of the widest cross-section possible to accept change as a continuous and inevitable process.

If enough energy and time is not spent with a wide base of participants in this 15% profile, the 85% of strategy executives would be a self-defeating process in trying to follow a muddled thinking along confused road maps by a group of motley and uncommitted lot.

People, especially committed people, throw up ideas that CEO, may not be able to originate. This wider participation by the base throws up multipurpose options to energies the organization as per perceptions of the “people who run” the organization.

The Four “E”s

Enabling, exciting, educating and empowering the organization are thus the basic tools that get the people aligned to the objectives of the organization by collaborative change management processes. You don’t have to conjure pictures of grand ideas to change – change happens one baby step at a time by the entire organization remaining committed to helping the baby take those stops.

Amongst all this, there is a great need to “invert the pyramid” to get a 360 degree perspective at all times. The energy, focus and Intent of the leaders must, however, be infectious and be crystal clear in their sincerity to the followers along the pyramid at all times. The team is quick to discern ulterior motives of leaders, if any. Once detected it is a difficult task to reverse the downward slide.

A Continuous Process

Strategic change mgt is a continuous process. The big picture must be clearly seen through by leaders, from all perspectives to evolve “Blue Ocean Strategies”. Any amount of change applied along the principles of Red Ocean strategies will only yield marginal results and tire out the organization. All leaders need to constantly excite their pyramids to look for these blue Oceans and charter a path along these seas.

The acme of skills of good leadership is constantly challenging status quo and generating options for better people participation to enhance their productivity. Unfortunately, more often than not, “leaders” work towards an aim with the same organization, people and levels of thinking and expect a positional change in their bottom lines. This does not work.  No sooner has one organization created to achieve an objective, started working efficiently, leaders must look for new ways to reorganize the systems, processes and tools. This can happen when leaders do not get “emotionally attached” to demons they have created.

Inverting the Pyramid

The term “Inverting the Pyramid” applies to non bureaucratic style of functioning by the leaders. They must recognize and reward talent, if they hope to keep the people responsive to organizational aims and objectives. If there is a bull run in which leaders can not differentiate the wood from the trees, mediocrity, sycophancy and demotivation of the “excited” employees would take place to the detriment of the organization. The leaders must learn to wear all the six hats while encouraging their teams to do the same constantly. Any organizational model that does not reward creativity and originality of thought is doomed.

The 15% Theory

Then there is the “theory of application” of the 15% Theory. What needs a change is always more important than the change itself. This cannot be a once in a year ritual in board rooms. It is a mixture of continuous formal and informal dialogues amongst all “collars”(white or blue) of the organization. Leaders should be astute enough to “sniff” signs of trouble and “gauge” processes, people and tools that need to change constantly. This applies to all leadership rungs of the organization at all times.

Inevitably, informal non conformist interactions provide better options, grass root upwards. In learning to “mange and lead” by walking around, the leader must remain in constant touch with ground realities. His office needs no curtains and doors and he should be seen more on the shop floor or the market place – in touch with his people, products and the markets. This, without courting populist gimmicks, can transmit the intent, integrity and honesty of purpose of the leader to the environment. It will make him approachable and spur dialogue for change a change for the better.

The 15% theory energizes the people in an organization and challenges them to outperform themselves, not for self promotion (which the leaders must do automatically) but for the larger organizational good.

The nature of the change is secondary to the perceptions that employees have regarding the ability, competence, and credibility of the leaders

Change follows a cycle of preparing for the change, getting your hands dirty in the change process and management of the spinoffs after change. The role of the leader remains supreme and cannot be debated. What can be is the quality of leadership, its vision, perseverance and ability to carry the teams through the change with a song on their lips. Leaders energy is contagious both ways.

The Leadership

Organisations look up to the leadership for a large number of things. The foremost is the leaders supportive role in providing the overarching vision, coherence and capacity to operate seamlessly through the chaos of the work and market place. This translates into leadership’s extreme tolerance for ambiguity and capacity to absorb Ristakes (Risk plus Mistakes) in the environment around them both in and out of the organization. That develops faith which simplifies the leader led equation where teams continue to surprise the leaders by their initiative and proactive adaptation to change.

Poor leadership runs counter to this and produces archaic and staid organizations incapable of following the routine, leave aside manage change. Trust and faith in leadership is therefore essential in a team but what is more important is a trustworthy and faithful leaders who have the temerity to carry their teams through thick and thin of change

Leadership before, during and after change implementation is THE key to getting through the change. Unfortunately, if you haven’t established a track record of effective leadership, by the time you have to deal with difficult changes, it may be too late.

The Organisation

Much like healthy people, who are better able to cope with infection or disease than unhealthy people, organization that are healthy in the first place are better able to deal with change. This warrants deliberation as all bad organizations also wish to change for the better and create an environment conducive to change. But as unhealthy people need doctors it is often wiser for leadership of these organizations to get a professional third person management of the change cycle.

As a leader you need to establish credibility and a track record of effective decision making, so that there is trust in your ability to figure out what is necessary to bring the organization through. If the organization does not have such leaders there is a need for an overhaul at the top

The Slog

Leaders play a critical role during change implementation, the period from the announcement of change through the installation of the change. During this middle period the organization is the most unstable, characterized by confusion, fear, loss of direction, reduced productivity, and lack of clarity about direction and mandate. It can be a period of emotionalism, with employees grieving for what is lost, and initially unable to look to the future.

As per experts, during this period, effective leaders need to focus on two things. First, the feelings and confusion of employees must be acknowledged and validated. Second, the leader must work with employees to begin creating a new vision of the altered workplace, and helping employees to understand the direction of the future. Focusing only on feelings, may result in wallowing. The leadership has to play the role of an orchestra conductor at such times. Being able to identify each discordant or out of sync activity and apply hands on corrections. He has to lead from the front balancing the vision and employee concerns constantly. In any case if the leader follows the 15% rule the team would be on board and there would be willing participation by the team to see the change through smoothly. More often than not good change initiatives lose out to ego battles in the board rooms. Good leaders introduce the change after taking everyone on board.

After Effects

Once people begin to see positive results of the change it is far easier to see these changes materialize. The leadership and the team having committed to the change must approach it with a vigor and intensity matching that of the leader. If these fears and initial change side effects are not managed cohesively, the team is more likely to spin back into cynicism and status quo complicating the task of the leaders.

Defining Roles

Taking a cue from Three Idiots, the leadership has to develop a capability to coherently define the role of each member of the team. Having identified the right man with the right attitude for the right job, the leader must provide him adequate latitude in his sphere of influence to excel. Most important the leader MUST NOT play favorites during the process of change, more than at any other time, lest it sabotages the change process.

Conclusion

No leadership “formula” can work effectively if the leadership dimensions do not account for the employee’s interests on the foremost. It is best articulated in the Chetwode motto placed at IMA and followed by the Armed Forces.

The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your country comes first  – Always and every time.

The Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the men you command comes next.

Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time.

                                                                                              Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode

Often all change management cycles fail when leaders invert this pyramid.

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Leading Change

Introduction

The change management cycle is congruent to what Colonel John Boyd articulated in military parlance of decision cycle or the OODA loop. Observe-Orient-Decide and Act. It is the complete range of activities which a business leader has to undertake in today’s competitive business environment to stay ahead of the change.

The OODA Loop

Observe. It implies undertaking all actions including collection processing and synthesizing of business activities to identify the exact parts of the process, people and tools that need a change to make sure optimization of effort. In this step the leader builds the intelligence picture and seeks to fill the gaps by proactive and engaging actions. It also leans partly on the 15% theory.

Orient. This step enables the leader to evaluate the complete information with the environment to generate a range of options with in the premise of its business, people, products and competition. It matches up the capabilities and capacities of each factor to analyze the various options with a view to evolve possible outcomes and courses of action. SWOT analysis is a part of this step.

Decide. Having undeniably oriented himself to the exact issues of various options, the leader then decides on the desired option to be adopted.

Act. This is the systematized and deliberate “slog” phase of the change management cycle where the leader along with team act upon the decided course of action.

Application of OODA Cycle

Now this is a dynamic cycle and needs to be performed repeatedly to outwit and outsmart the competition, innovate and improvise to enthuse the team, refine the processes and apply the right tools to achieve the intent of the leader.

It calls for continuous tempering by the leaders in the “flattened hierchy” of the system to put their shoulders to the wheel in generating and implementing “Blue Ocean Strategies”. The OODA cycle enables the leader and the team to stay one step ahead of the change always. It calls for continuous feedback and regular course corrections to invest in the right strategies by taking suitable risks, accepting mistakes and operating in an information vacuum under conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty. All this, without losing the sense of balance and fun.

Here the first two ‘O’s ie Observe and Orient are the most critical parts of the analysis to evaluate the environment and develop various courses of action. Information will rarely be complete and the quest for solving each piece of the Information Jigsaw puzzle can cause paralysis by analysis. This calls for astute judgment capabilities based on a 360 perspective of the 15% Theory. The more leaders “wide base” this 15% theory, better are the chance for generating coherent options, leading to the next step in the OODA Cycle ie to Decide.

Once a decision is taken based on the double O’ the team must pull all stops in earnest within the intent of the leader. The “Intent” thus becomes critical at this stage. Once this larger construct is absorbed by cross functional teams, they can operate in a “swarmed” manner to achieve the desired goals effortlessly. This obviates the need to referring matters up or down the chain constantly saving precious resources and time. Should there be a mismatch in comprehending this, the change management cycle would cycle at the same place, generating a lot of activity without any meaningful result.

At the cost of repetition the final takeaway of this discourse of applying continuous OODA cycles to generate possible action the leader and the team must generate clairvoyance to identify what needs to change. That is critical to the success of the change management cycle.

The next essential component during “action” stage is the ability of the leader to function under the dictates of “Directive Style of Leadership”. Having given the objectives, resources and time to the teams, the leader must provide them with adequate space to execute their mission with complete confidence. Each component of the team must have their space to innovate and operate, under an “ownership” principle. This would generate desired momentum to the team’s efforts and enable swarmed actions to achieve the goals. The term “Deadlines” would then be made redundant by these swarmed cross functional teams which would evaluate, operate and vector under their own OODA cycles within the construct of the leaders “Intent”.

Feedback

Feedback is the essence of change management and strategy execution. There should be elaborate formal and informal systems to ensure the feedback mechanism is dynamic and responsive. However, the feedback should not become an end in itself. It is just a means to enable leaders and teams to maintain direction. By no stretch of imagination should this become a barometer for “assessing” and “evaluating” leaders and teams. That would work against the principle of making “Ristakes” and lead the organisaiton to a path of mediocrity with a low appetite for risk taking an essential element of progressive change management. This alone can facilitate experimentation without challenging which it is well-nigh impossible to create out of the box solutions to complex problems.

Essential Nuances

During this entire process, a few small things with major ramifications are critical. These are “playing favorites’,“no mistake syndrome” and “shooting down dissent”. These three are the biggest enemies of organizational behavior in cross functional teams operating under the intent of the leader. Nothing de motivates and de acceleration a team more than these evils of leadership. Leaders must guard against these conscientiously.

Fun and Balance

The aspect of “fun and balance” narrated earlier may have missed the readers. These are keys to success of adaptive organizations willing to change on a continuous basis. The aspect of OODA cycle and the change management cycle work best in an environment of healthy mutual respect, “space to each other” and mature conflict resolution practices. “Fun and Balance” are great enablers which facilitate change management cycle. They grease the various moving parts in an organization and make change management worthwhile. There are no One Minute solutions to keeping teams motivated. “Fun and balance” is a very serious business for the leader. It needs just as much application of OODA cycle by the leader as the entire business process.

Once again this reinforces the role of the leader as the conductor of the organsiational orchestra.

The Maneuverist  Leaders

In war fighting philosophies, as in businesses, there is this penultimate philosophy termed “maneuvre warfare” as against “attrition warfare”. The major difference between the two philosophies is the approach to warfare in their application of “force on force” approach as compared to the maneuver or the mental faculties approach. The aim of maneuver warfare is to avoid enemy strength’s and attack his weaknesses by generating faster OODA cycles. This often repeated and continuous application & generation of OODA cycles facilitate, leaders to outsmart and finally paralyse the minds of opposite numbers and forces – leading them to despair and ultimate defeat.

As against this the attrition or the force on force approach is bloody, intense slog and results in victory at great costs in men and resources.

In business strategies too we often find direct “attritionist” approach being played out too often at the detriment of the larger aim of the organization. This translates into huge costs to achieve business objectives.

On the other hand smart leaders follow the maneuverist approach to outsmart the competition by playing on their weaknesses and steering clear of their strengths. In this approach the leaders carry out intelligence preparation of the business environment and produce ‘Blue Ocean Strategies’ by a systematic approach through generation of unambiguous and faster OODA cycles. A dynamic SWOT analysis and adoption of six sigma principles to refine the processes, people and tools remains an integral part of this philosophy. This philosophy can also be termed as “Blue Ocean”  as against the crowded “Red Ocean” strategy.

Systems Approach to Life

Thereafter, the leaders and the teams take to “systems approach” to handling their organisational aims and objectives. It entails indentifying the terminal objectives for each organsiational need and systematically approach the problem at hand be it production, marketing or training to evolve suitable “enabling” and “Learning” objectives to derive the correct course of action or approach to evolving business strategies, training plans or almost any conceivable business activity.

Conclusion

Today’s business leaders have to be armed with necessary tools of business leadership to survive and excel, The maneuver theories developed and refined overtime apply equally to leaders in any environment. Developing clairvoyance and the art of leading businesses successively by remaining one step or more ahead of the change are critical to success in businesses as they are to any situation in wars. In both the one quick on his feet wins.

Hungry for Change

Ayn Rand's sign.

Challenging the Change

Progressive organisations are disruptive and eager to lead change. The hunger is evident by each member attempting to operate along future paradigms in a dynamic environment. Instead of chasing  change, they are always one step ahead of the change.

This requires a hunger generated by disruptive,collaborative and inspirational leadership which is always charting routes along the edge. They take risks and accept mistakes. To these organisations beating the status quo is a daily activity by generating multiple options to lead their organisations where none have dared before. These organisation might appear chaotic and somewhat dysfunctional from a distance but up close each member is a power house capable of transforming change itself.

The capitalistic theories of Ayn Rand have undergone a metamorphosis since Atlas Shrugged, driven by transformational and interdependent theories of today’s networked environments. While intellectual property remains an issue to contend with, the environment for growth is driven by businesses beyond borders. Each entrepreneur, who is hungry for change, can innovate  in a seamless environment of growth. Protecting intellect has been replaced by sharing intellect to multiply the resultant vector. The Web 2 environment has created seamless opportunities and provided growth avenues along the vast expanse of the blue oceans.

There is space in the blue oceans for those who are willing to walk on the edge and take risks. For others, it is business as usual.

This is a presentation we did some time back…things have changed since but not the hunger for change

Transcending Leadership Moulds

There are enough literature and guides available to explain the theory and practice of leadership. However, the biggest teacher of leadership is the nature itself complete with its universal intelligence.

In B Schools and HRD classes, people teach classifications of leadership models because they help students lead organized lives and have a clear picture of where things are. Despite the regular and discernible chaos in organizational leadership paradigms, people somehow feel comfortable with yardsticks they can identify with. That which is in their genetic coding. Some theories are based around the concepts of a transactional  or a transformational leader. Often people like to fall into one of the categories based on their code.

They make cardinal natural blunders here.

Ever seen a sapling grow into a tree and yield fruits against all the vagaries of nature? The key word that nature bestows upon them,and us, is adaptability. The trees adapt to storms, the animals adapt, the chameleons change colours and every activity guided by universal intelligence adapts disruptively to live in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

What happens to humans? Why do we have to be tutored in every aspect of a disruptive and adaptive life as against the laws of nature? Why should leaders be only type cast into transactional or transformational?

One comes across organizations which are sticklers for rules. Do you want to play by the rules in business? Or do you see rules as limitations that are important reference points but can be bent or experimented with for the benefit of your organisation?

There is a world out there beyond the stereotypes of transactional,situational and transformational leadership. The nature does take root as per set rules. A tree would not grow if it doesn’t get adequate sunshine or water or bend in the wind to the limit of its elasticity. So largely some rules have to be followed to have a semblance of commonality of purpose but there are others which need to be bent to suit the mandates of organizational efficiency.

This is the theory of evolution.

No one approach can be defined as the best. Time, situation, organizational needs and other expediencies should make a leader adapt his organization in a

leadership in circles

disruptive and distributed model so as to produce the sum of the whole as a multiplication factor of the individual strengths of the teams. The leader has to represent and act as the conductor of an orchestra – give adequate latitude to each musician but notice the failing notes promptly,finally producing synergy in the collective effort towards producing the required musical score.

There though is a problem here. This disruptive and directive style of functional leadership puts the onus of delivery largely on the led. If these have not been groomed to adapt to change and lead change.  armed with suitable KSAs, the ecosystem gets disturbed and results get marginalized to leadership styles. Organisation suffers.

While it is important to have some stability and equilibrium in the teams, it is equally important to flatten the hierchies to generate better and interactive output based on principles of empowerment. The more Ristakes (Risk plus Mistakes) you permit within the wider scope of experimentation better will be the evolutionary process of the organization as a whole. Leaders may face some tactical setbacks but strategically it is a win-win situation for the organization.

Leaders have to perpetuate change and teach teams to fly, as a bird does to the young ones, with attendant short term risks. It is only in such leadership environments that teams learn to soar.

Leadership training tends to be full of talk about change and moving forward, but in fact it is the simple complexity of disruptive leaders which can bring about a culture of change by leading from the front.

Change is a daily process, as is leadership, for change. To be in harmony and ahead of change, leaders have to be more disruptive than change itself. This proactivity creates the right growth environment based on trust, irrespective of the style used.

There are no mantras to be a leader. One can learn all  one wants from the books but in the end you have to be a leader and not become one. It is an inside thing – a call guided by our little voice which the nature has bestowed upon each one. We must use it effectively.

As they say in the military – leadership is spirituality in motion!

Leading Change

Introduction

The change management cycle is congruent to what Colonel John Boyd articulated in military parlance of decision cycle or the OODA loop. Observe-Orient-Decide and Act. It is the complete range of activities which a business leader has to undertake in today’s competitive business environment to stay ahead of the change.

The OODA Loop

The OODA Loop or Cycle

Observe. It implies undertaking all actions including collection processing and synthesizing of business activities to identify the exact parts of the process, people and tools that need a change to ensure optimization of effort. In this step the leader builds the intelligence picture and seeks to fill the gaps by proactive and engaging actions. It also leans partly on the 15% theory.

Orient. This step enables the leader to evaluate the complete information with the environment to generate a range of options with in the premise of its business, people, products and competition. It matches up the capabilities and capacities of each factor to analyze the various options with a view to evolve possible outcomes and courses of action. SWOT analysis is a part of this step.

Decide. Having undeniably oriented himself to the exact issues of various options, the leader then decides on the desired option to be adopted.

Act. This is the systematized and deliberate “slog” phase of the change management cycle where the leader along with team act upon the decided course of action.

Application of OODA Cycle

Now this is a dynamic cycle and needs to be performed repeatedly to outwit and outsmart the competition, innovate and improvise to enthuse the team, refine the processes and apply the right tools to achieve the intent of the leader.

It calls for continuous tempering by the leaders in the “flattened hierchy” of the system to put their shoulders to the wheel in generating and implementing “Blue Ocean Strategies”. The OODA cycle enables the leader and the team to stay one step ahead of the change always. It calls for continuous feedback and regular course corrections to invest in the right strategies by taking suitable risks, accepting mistakes and operating in an information vacuum under conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty. All this, without losing the sense of balance and fun.

Here the first two ‘O’s ie Observe and Orient are the most critical parts of the analysis to evaluate the environment and develop various courses of action. Information will rarely be complete and the quest for solving each piece of the Information Jigsaw puzzle can cause paralysis by analysis. This calls for astute judgment capabilities based on a 360 perspective of the 15% Theory. The more leaders “wide base” this 15% theory, better are the chance for generating coherent options, leading to the next step in the OODA Cycle ie to Decide.

Once a decision is taken based on the double O’ the team must pull out all stops in earnest within the intent of the leader. The “Intent” thus becomes critical at this stage. Once this larger construct is absorbed by cross functional teams, they can operate in a “swarmed” manner to achieve the desired goals effortlessly. This obviates the need to referring matters up or down the chain constantly saving precious resources and time. Should there be a mismatch in comprehending this, the change management cycle would cycle at the same place, generating a lot of activity without any meaningful result.

At the cost of repetition the final takeaway of this discourse of applying continuous OODA cycles to generate possible action the leader and the team must generate clairvoyance to identify what needs to change. That is critical to the success of the change management cycle.

The next essential component during “action” stage is the ability of the leader to function under the dictates of “Directive Style of Leadership”. Having given the objectives, resources and time to the teams, the leader must provide them with adequate space to execute their mission with complete confidence. Each component of the team must have their space to innovate and operate, under an “ownership” principle. This would generate desired momention to the teams efforts and enable swarmed actions to achieve the goals. The term “Deadlines” would then be made redundant by these swarmed cross functional teams which would evaluate, operate and vector under their own OODA cycles within the construct of the leaders “Intent”.

Feedback

Feedback is the essence of change management and strategy execution. There should be elaborate formal and informal systems to ensure the feedback mechanism is dynamic and responsive. However, the feedback should not become an end in itself. It is just a means to enable leaders and teams to maintain direction. By no stretch of imagination should this become a barometer for “assessing” and “evaluating” leaders and teams. That would work against the principle of making “Ristakes” and lead the organisaiton to a path of mediocrity with a low appetite for risk taking an essential element of progressive change management. This alone can facilitate experimentation without challenging which it is well nigh impossible to create out of the box solutions to complex problems.

Essential Nuances

During this entire process, a few small things with major ramifications are critical. These are “playing favorites’,“no mistake syndrome” and “shooting down dissent”. These three are the biggest enemies of organizational behavior in cross functional teams operating under the intent of the leader. Nothing de motivates and de acceleration a team more than these evils of leadership. Leaders must guard against these conscientiously.

Fun and Balance

Fun and Balance

The aspect of “fun and balance” narrated earlier may have missed the readers. These are keys to success of adaptive organizations willing to change on a continuous basis. The aspect of OODA cycle and the change management cycle work best in an environment of “healthy mutual respect”, “space to each other” and mature conflict resolution practices. “Fun and Balance” are great enablers which facilitate change management cycle. They grease the various moving parts in an organization and make change management worthwhile. There are no One Minute solutions to keeping teams motivated. “Fun and balance” is a very serious business for the leader. It needs just as much application of OODA cycle by the leader as the entire business process.

Once again this reinforces the role of the leader as the conductor of the organsiational orchestra.

The Maneuverist  Leaders

In war fighting philosophies, as in businesses, there is this penultimate philosophy termed “maneuvre warfare” as against “attrition warfare”. The major difference between the two philosophies is the approach to warfare in their application of “force on force” approach as compared to the maneuver or the mental faculties approach. The aim of maneuver warfare is to avoid enemy strength’s and attack his weaknesses by generating faster OODA cycles. This often repeated and continuous application & generation of OODA cycles facilitate, leaders to outsmart and finally paralyse the minds of opposite numbers and forces – leading them to despair and ultimate defeat.

As against this the attrition or the force on force approach is bloody, intense slog and results in victory at great costs in men and resources.

In business strategies too we often find direct “attritionist” approach being played out too often at the detriment of the larger aim of the organization. This translates into huge costs to achieve business objectives.

On the other hand smart leaders follow the maneuverist approach to outsmart the competition by playing on their

SWOT Ingredients

weaknesses and steering clear of their strengths. In this approach the leaders carry out intelligence preparation of the business environment and produce ‘Blue Ocean Strategies’ by a systematic approach through generation of unambiguous and faster OODA cycles. A dynamic SWOT analysis and adoption of six sigma principles to refine the processes, people and tools remains an integral part of this philosophy.

Systems Approach to Life

Thereafter, the leaders and the teams take to “systems approach” to handling their organisational aims and objectives. It entails indentifying the terminal objectives for each organsiational need and systematically approaching the problem at hand be it production, marketing or training to evolve suitable “enabling” and “learning” objectives to derive the correct course of action or approach to evolving business strategies, training plans or almost any conceivable business or life activity.

Conclusion

Today’s business leaders have to be armed with necessary tools of business leadership to survive and excel. The maneuver theories developed and refined overtime apply equally to leaders in any environment. Developing clairvoyance and the art of leading businesses successively by remaining one step or moving ahead of the change are critical to success in businesses as they are to any situation in wars.

In both the one quick on his feet wins.

Here’s for the Why, what and how of leading change

Leadership For Managing Change

Change Management: Story War

Image by daveelf via Flickr

Strategic Change Management is a deliberate system of changing people, processes and tools to achieve organizational goals which align well with the aspirations of the team members. It is largely woven around the vision of the leaders shared equally by the organisations.

Basics of Change Management

The Conceptual Construct Change management is based on accepting the vitality of the first  15% of effort in identifying what needs to be changed in people, processes and tools in any organization. If this aspect does not have a wide acceptability and the ownership of ideas is not transferred to people, the processes will never get refined whatever tools we use.

This underscores the dynamic, participative and vibrant “energisation” of people to challenge the status quo as a tool to excite the processes. Once suitable energy is transmitted to the environment, out of the box solutions appear from nowhere to augment the staid thinking in an organization. The key word is “excitement” of the widest cross section possible to accept change as a continuous and inevitable process.

If enough energy and time is not spent with a wide base of participants in this 15% profile, the 85% of strategy execution would be a self defeating process in trying to follow a muddled thinking along confused road maps by a group of motley and uncommitted lot.

People, especially committed people, throw up ideas that CEOs, may not be able to conjure. This wider participation by the base throws up multipurpose options to energies the organization as per perceptions of the “people who run” the organization.

The Four “E”s

Enabling, exciting, educating and empowering the organization are thus the basic tools that get the people aligned to the objectives of the organization by collaborative change management processes. You don’t have to conjure pictures of grand ideas of change – change happens one baby step at a time by the entire organization remaining committed to helping the baby take those steps.

Amongst all this, there is a great need to “invert the pyramid” to get a 360 degree perspective at all times. The leaders must be in constant touch with reality at the bottom of the pyramid. The energy, focus and Intent of the leaders must, however, be infectious and be crystal clear in their sincerity to the followers along the pyramid at all times. The team is quick to discern ulterior motives of leaders, if any. Once detected it is a difficult task to reverse the downward slide.

A Continuous Process

Strategic change management is a continuous process. The big picture must be clearly seen through by leaders, from all perspectives to evolve “Blue Ocean Strategies”. Any amount of change applied along the principles of “Red Ocean Strategies” will only yield marginal results and tire out the organization. All leaders need to constantly excite their pyramids to look for these blue Oceans and charter a path along these seas.

The acme of skills of good leadership is constantly challenging status quo and generating options for better people participation to enhance their productivity. Unfortunately, more often than not, “leaders” work towards an aim with the same organization, people and levels of thinking and expect a positional change in their bottom lines. This does not work.  No sooner has an organization, created to achieve an objective, started working efficiently, leaders must look for new ways to reorganize the systems, processes and tools. This can happen when leaders do not get “emotionally attached” to demons they have created.

Inverting the Pyramid

The term “Inverting the Pyramid” applies to non bureaucratic style of functioning by the

Inverting the Pyramid Helps

leaders. They must recognize and reward talent, if they hope to keep the people responsive to organizational aims and objectives. If there is a bull run in which leaders can not differentiate the wood from the trees, mediocrity, sycophancy and demotivation of the “excited” employees would take place to the detriment of the organization. The leaders must learn to wear all the six hats while encouraging their teams to do the same constantly. Any organizational model that does not reward creativity and originality of thought is doomed.

The 15% Theory

Then there is the “theory of application” of the 15% Theory. What needs a change is always more important than the change itself. This cannot be a once in a year ritual in board rooms. It is a mixture of continuous formal and informal dialogues amongst all “collars”(white or blue) of the organization. Leaders should be astute enough to “sniff” signs of trouble and “gauge” processes, people and tools that need to change constantly. This applies to all leadership rungs of the organization at all times.

Inevitably, informal non conformist interactions provide better options, grass root upwards. In learning to “manage and lead” by walking around, the leader must remain in constant touch with ground realities. His office needs no curtains and doors and he should be seen more on the shop floor or the market place – in touch with his people, products and the markets. This, without courting populist gimmicks, can transmit the intent, integrity and honesty of purpose of the leader to the environment. It will make him approachable and spur dialogue for a change for the better.

The 15% theory energizes the people in an organization and challenges them to outperform themselves, not for self promotion (which the leaders must do automatically) but for the larger organizational good.

The nature of the change is secondary to the perceptions that employees have regarding the ability, competence, and credibility of the leaders.

Change follows a cycle of preparing for the change, getting your hands dirty in the change process and management of the spinoffs after change. The role of the leader remains supreme and cannot be debated. What can be is the quality of leadership, its vision, perseverance and ability to carry the teams through the change with a song on their lips. Leaders energy is contagious both ways.

The Leadership

Organisations look up to the leadership for a large number of things. The foremost is the leaders supportive role in providing the overarching vision, coherence and capacity to operate seamlessly through the chaos of the work and market place. This translates into leadership’s extreme tolerance for ambiguity and capacity to absorb Ristakes (Risk plus Mistakes) in the environment around them both in and out of the organization. That develops faith which simplifies the leader led equation where teams continue to surprise the leaders by their initiative and proactive adaptation to change.

Poor leadership runs counter to this and produces archaic and staid organizations incapable of following the routine, leave aside manage change. Trust and faith in leadership is therefore essential in a team but what is more important is  trustworthy and faithful leaders who have the temerity to carry their teams through thick and thin of change.

Leadership before, during and after change implementation is THE key to getting through the change. Unfortunately, if you haven’t established a track record of effective leadership, by the time you have to deal with difficult changes, it may be too late.

The Organisation

Much like healthy people, who are better able to cope with infection or disease than unhealthy people, organizations that are healthy in the first place are better able to deal with change. This warrants deliberation as all bad organizations also wish to change for the better and create an environment conducive to change. But as unhealthy people need doctors it is often wiser for leadership of these organizations to get a professional third person management of the change cycle.

As a leader you need to establish credibility and a track record of effective decision making, so that there is trust in your ability to figure out what is necessary to bring the organization through. If the organization does not have such leaders there is a need for an overhaul at the top.

Organisational Adaptability

Inherent in leading and managing the change is the organisation’s ability to adapt to people , places, processes, tools and objectives. Only an adaptive organisation can field cross functional teams capable of operating in weathered down information environment under circumstances of ambiguity and uncertainty. This is a tall order but can be managed through sound leadership, collaborative engagements and effective training in an environment of trust and mutual respect.

The Slog

Leaders play a critical role during change implementation, the period from the announcement of change through the installation of the change. During this middle period the organization is  most unstable, characterized by confusion, fear, loss of direction, reduced productivity, and lack of clarity about direction and mandate. It can be a period of emotionalism, with employees grieving for what is lost, and initially unable to look to the future.

As per experts, during this period, effective leaders need to focus on two things. First, the feelings and confusion of employees must be acknowledged and validated. Second, the leader must work with employees to begin creating a new vision of the altered workplace, and helping employees understand the direction of the future. Focusing only on feelings, may result in wallowing. The leadership has to play the role of an orchestra conductor at such times. Being able to identify each discordant or out of sync activity and apply hands on corrections. He has to lead from the front balancing the vision and employee concerns constantly. In any case, if the leader follows the 15% rule, the team would be on board and there would be willing participation by the team to see the change through smoothly. More often than not good change initiatives lose out to ego battles in the board rooms. Good leaders introduce the change after taking everyone on board. The key is effectively transferring the ownership of ideas fro change to the team. That starts the chain reaction.

After Effects

Once people begin to see positive results of the change it is far easier to see these changes materialize. The leadership and the team having committed to the change must approach it with a vigor and intensity matching that of the leader. If these fears and initial change side effects are not managed cohesively, the team is more likely to spin back into cynicism and status quo complicating the task of the leaders.

Defining Roles

Taking a cue from Three Idiots, the leadership has to develop a capability to coherently define the role of each member of the team. Having identified the right man with the right attitude for the right job, the leader must provide him adequate latitude in his sphere of influence to excel. Most important the leaders MUST NOT play favorites during the process of change, more than at any other time, lest it sabotages the change process.

Conflict Resolution

The most common story cited to illustrate anekantvad or amultidimensional life is that of a king who called six blind men to touch and describe an elephant. All of them came up with different answers, calling the elephant a rope, fan, snake or wall. While they were partly right, they were nowhere near the whole truth. All of us see the world and life from our limited perspective. If we knew this, then we would not be in conflict with others. But we assume that what we know is the whole truth and that the other is wrong. And hence there are conflicts all over the world, basically because my truth does not agree with yours, although both of us don’t know that we are both only partially correct, and are both likely to be wrong. We strongly hold on to our partial or wrong concepts, and fight over it, tooth and nail. When the final picture emerges, or with the passage of time, when we look back at the past, we will often see how our words and actions were often wrong.

Effective leaders understand that they do not have all the answers and learn while empowering their teams. That, somehow, is the best philosophical way of looking at life. Everything falls in place as long as you are willing to learn.

Conclusion

No leadership “formula” can work effectively if the leadership dimensions do not account for the employee’s interests on the foremost. It is best articulated in the Chetwood motto placed at IMA and followed by the Armed Forces.

The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your country comes first  – Always and every time.

The Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the men you command comes next.

Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time.

Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode

Often all change management cycles fail when leaders invert this pyramid.