Take These Four Essential Steps to a Successful Change Management Strategy

“It’s up to you to find a spark, light the fire and encourage your team to make the leap!”, Tony Gleeson.

Since the Global Financial Crisis there have been few businesses that have been able to achieve and sustain significant growth without a firm change management strategy. Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation or the Director of a new start-up, creating a leadership team that is responsive, flexible and capable of thriving in a changing environment is a crucial first step in implementing and sustaining a positive change management strategy. Tony recently took on the role of Executive General Manager of The Australian Institute of Management, AIM, and has had plenty of opportunities to test and refine his change leadership skills. In this article he shares his essential tips to create an adaptable, cohesive and dynamic leadership team. 1.Get Your Vision Right Failing to plan may be planning to fail, but if you don’t first clearly define a vision for your business, you’re literally going in blind. As part of your vision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a comprehensive understanding of what is motivating the change?
  • How will change be facilitated and what are the desired outcomes?
  • Stay focused on what’s important and ask yourself  ‘what’s really going to make a difference to our long-range outcomes’?
  • Avoid making broad or generic statements; instead focus on the specifics. Don’t, for example, just talk about ‘increasing profitability/productivity’ or ‘driving innovation’. Instead paint the picture get specific and ask how you will sell more units of x to market z.
  • How you will encourage loyalty and job satisfaction in your employees?
  • What processes you will implement to encourage creativity and support new ideas?

Make sure your vision is consistent and incorporates every area of the business, from the bottom up. 2.Communication Once you’ve established a clear vision, you need to communicate it to your executive team. Tony’s approach to communicating important ideas in a way that will resonate and have impact is simple – say it the way it is. Communication dos and don’ts:

  • Avoid jargon, buzzwords and meaningless phrases that sound impressive but say little.
  • Don’t dumb things down or take a ‘need-to-know’ approach with your team, and encourage questions and feedback.
  • Do remember, your executive team is a valuable sounding board for new ideas and strategies.
  • Do take an open approach and explore concerns and reservations – this is a great way to fine-tune your plans before you implement them.
  • Do actively listen to and acknowledge your team when they offer constructive feedback.

All of this will also instil a sense of collaboration and ownership and ensure everyone is as invested in the success of the vision as you are. 3.Create a Desire for Change One of the most important, and frequently overlooked aspects of successful change management is making sure that every member of your team understands, and is on board with the motivation behind what you’re doing. Creating a so-called ‘burning platform’ is an effective way of eliminating negative resistance to change and an unproductive ‘it ain’t broke so why fix it’ attitude among your staff. By encouraging a sense of immediacy and incorporating planned changes into a broader context your entire team can appreciate, you’re far more likely to have their full support and enthusiasm. Your burning platform might be simply financial (we need to do this or we’ll run out of money), it might focus on establishing or maintaining relevance in your given market (we need to do this or we’ll become redundant) or it could be timing related (if we don’t do this now, we’ll miss out on opportunity xyz). It’s up to you to find a spark, light the fire and encourage your team to make the leap! 4.Check in and Be Realistic About Progress Finally, check in regularly with your team, formally and informally to make sure your plans are on track. When your business experiences setbacks or makes a mistake, don’t gloss over it and keep saying that everything’s great. Take the time to acknowledge and evaluate your mistakes and find what you can learn from them. Likewise, make sure you reward and celebrate success wherever you can.