Often we hear leaders chatter on endlessly about their “intent”, “visions” and how the teams should flower under their tutelage. They never tire of torturing an audience till the organisation tires out of the “How” that the leader explains with such disdain each time he gets an opportunity. This is accentuated if the employees only get to listen to the leader and are seldom allowed the latitude to articulate their own aspirations and visions about either the task at hand, the organisation or the team.
When they listen, they “hear” with a view to out talk the led. Such leaders start the cycle of cynicism in an organisation, especially when the leaders are not able to Walk their Talks. Teams hang on to every word, motion or activity of the leader. While a blabbering leader may forget what he said yesterday – the team remembers – and thus starts the Chinese whisper in an organisation, disempowering the teams across verticals.
Good leaders listen and listen actively to absorb the aspirations and callings of each member of the team. This helps them find each team member’s true calling. There is nothing more motivating in an environment where a team member feels confident to explain his point of view succinctly and without parental oversights by the leader. This simple habit of the leader energises the team members and motivates them with an optimism that their views would be heard passionately towards the larger good of the organisation. They then push the envelope as active participants in the growth of the organisation.
This passion is contagious across all levels of leaders and the led, where leaders automatically produce leaders and not mere followers. This creates an enabling environment where the “why” overrides the “how” and unleashes the true potential of each team member.
As they say in the military, “passionate leaders lead by actions not words”.
- Boss vs. Leader (socyberty.com)
- That was the week that was (lukeakehurst.blogspot.com)
- Today You Can Only Be A Leader By Creating Leaders (forbes.com)
- Leadership by Listening ( Learn This)
- Leadership – Medium is the Key
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Leadership Theories & Change Management (brighthub.com)
- Different Stages of Change Theory (brighthub.com)
- How Kraft Foods Is Cooking Up a Change Management Culture (prweb.com)
- Life Cycle Engineering Becomes First U.S. Authorized Training Provider for Prosci Change Management Programs (eon.businesswire.com)