The most important factor of any organizational change is the skill and willingness of leaders
Organizational change is the transition from a current state to some new state. And change management is the process to guide people from where they are today to where they need to be in that new state.
The tools and approach of change management are relatively straightforward:
- Identify and describe the current and desired states
- Improve communication
- Listen to feedback
- Provide support and resources for employees
- Make plans
- Measure and report
- Improve the ability for organizations to change successfully
All these components indeed help improve the success of changes, and it can be done without a massive investment.
At least on paper.
In practice, change management continues to have high costs and moderate effectiveness because many organizations and even change practitioners overlook the most important factor in a successful change: the skill and willingness of leaders.
State of change management today
An early leader in the field of change management, LaMarsh Global was instrumental in developing change management standards. Through research and practice, LaMarsh Global change consultants developed tools and strategies to manage organizational change and packaged them into our change management methodology – Managed Change.
Our methodology has evolved over the years. The processes, terminology, resources and training methods have all been routinely updated based on what works best for modern companies. And we continue to review Managed Change and consider new ideas or refinements that will strengthen its impact.
This story is mirrored throughout the change management community. Over the past 40 years, change consultants and firms have developed methodologies, standards, certifications, tools and processes to improve the outcomes of organizational changes.
Despite change management's growth and maturity, many organizations still face the same issues and challenges with change that they did 40 years ago.
Change management works, but its success relies on the role of leaders.
The critical role of leaders
The role of leaders is to guide, influence and manage people. And the role of leaders in a change is to guide, influence and manage employees from where they are today to where they need to be in the future.
Change management aims to provide leaders with the necessary information and resources to carry out their responsibilities. Too often, these responsibilities are passed off to change practitioners or HR teams, and leaders minimize or opt-out of their role.
Even if a change is implemented perfectly according to a change management methodology, employees will look to their leader for direction.
It is difficult to downplay the role of leaders, but it is important to note that leaders have their own pressures, demands and a long list of responsibilities. Some of the leadership challenges that we have witnessed include:
- Leaders are squeezed between the demands of the project and the pressures of their employees.
- Leaders are not provided with the necessary support and learning to fulfill their roles as a people manager.
- Leaders are not properly supported by change practitioners or change teams.
- Leaders don’t have the time or capacity for the change project.
- Leaders have difficulty translating change management into terms that make sense to their employees.
- Leaders tend to underestimate the impact they have on their employees.
Simply acknowledging the critical role of leaders isn’t enough. They need training, support and information to have the ability, time and understanding to fulfill their role.
Shift the focus to leadership
The focus needs to shift from the role of leadership in successful change management to the role of change management in successful leadership. It is the role of leaders to effectively use this business process, instead of leaders passing off their role to a business process.
LaMarsh Global’s change management methodology, Managed Change, is centered around strengthening, nurturing and aligning leadership. Even as the demands of being a people manager become more complex, LaMarsh Global will continue to improve our methodology to truly support leaders to fulfill their role in a change.
This white paper by Deborah Morrison, Director of Consulting Services, uncovers the painful truth of change management: that it is nothing more than leadership. But shifting the focus to leadership will leverage the advancements in change management to improve the outcomes of organizational changes.■