Sunday, March 09, 2008

Organizational Change - Leaders leading and managers managing

I am frequently asked why we concentrate on leadership and management, especially in organisational change situations. The answer is simple. We make far too many assumptions about the capabilities and beliefs of these key people. When you analyse why change programmes fail outright or fail to excel in delivering real advantage the top three reasons are:
  1. Poor Strategy
  2. Poor Leadership
  3. Poor Management

As any organisational development / change process is going to depend on Leaders and Managers doing their job and making a positive impact it is essential that any assumption that they are going to do so are true.

It is quite a large assumption that because someone has the title ‘leader’ or ‘manager’ that they will lead and manage, especially in the difficult, uncertain and shifting conditions of change. This assumption is based on the further assumptions that they know what to do, how to do it and have the mindset and willingness to do what is needed, especially in a situation of change when emotions are often running high. These are difficult situations to manage and lead through, and such situations are an entirely different prospect than say leading and managing in normal operational conditions. There are some questions about the leadership and management which need to be answered:

  • Do people know how to lead and manage in such conditions? Different thinking is required in such situations.
  • Do they have the skills for such situations? Skills don’t transfer very easily from normal conditions especially when the leader’s and manager’s own emotions are likely to be involved.Do they have the required emotional resilience and intelligence? Can they deal with other people’s and their own emotions in a way which creates a positive working environment where change is constructive, rather than just amplifying fears and heightening emotions?
  • Do they have the belief in the change and the vision of the future? People’s attitudes are apparent from the behaviour they display. Our attitudes stem from our beliefs. If people really believe in something they will think and act accordingly. Just asking people if they believe is not enough!
  • Do they have a ‘can do’ – positive attitude in difficult situations? All change programmes will have difficult times. People who give up when the going gets tough are going nowhere. Leaders and managers who give up or keep their heads down when the going gets tough are of little use in organisational change situations.
  • And finally are they willing to grasp the nettle and actually lead and manage in a way which leaves the organisation and their people stronger and more resilient? Leaders and managers who know what to do and when to do it but who don’t actually do anything will at best have no impact and at worst will have a detrimental influence.
Good leaders and managers can make all the difference between change that delivers massive benefits and catastrophic change that weakens the organisation and the bottom line. This means a bit more than just running a few workshops and briefings.

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