Change is a scary thing. When it’s done correctly it’s magic. When it’s done badly it’s deadly.
I know as I’ve experienced both. I’ve seen the skillful managers who have met with all of their staff and requested feedback, advice and buy-in to proposed changes. They were not only respected and supported but they also saw their organization improve and the retention rate of staff and customers was 100%. We were all on board and appreciated the role we had in the changes. It was seamless baby. Seamless.
Then, I’ve seen the clueless managers who made wholesale changes with little or no feedback, advice or buy-in from staff or clients. Before long the organization began hemorrhaging employees and stakeholders who had become disillusioned, resentful and angry with the heavy-handed, tin-eared and hypersensitive style of the head honchos. It was a train-wreck and we were in the caboose watching it derail. Ugly, man. Ugly.
Those who are of the former style of management, the Baldrige article being reviewed here is probably just a rehash of your style. Kudos to you as you get it.
Those of you reading this article who are of the latter style of management, please read on before you drive the “change train” off the tracks and lose more employees and clients. Yes, there is redemption if you don’t delay.
In Adrian Tan’s article “Time for a Change: Basic tips for leading a successful change initiative,” we find that the best way a leader can implement it is by having knowledge. Or, as Tan says:
“In my experience leading change, I have found the most basic ingredient for
making change happen is knowledge: knowledge of yourself, the situation and
the concerns of those affected by the change. It is extremely important to do
your homework first and learn about all sides of the story.”
Tan continues to relate his own experience of jumping in too early and botching it up. He then gives five pointers for leaders who are making a change:
Get the direction right
- Start small and empower
- Stay focused and be consistent
- Stay neutral
Those tips seem so benign and acceptable by any standard until you dig deeper. Tan states that change is “an intricate task. It is a science—a series of steps that can be planned and documented. But it is also an art.”
“Steps” I understand, but an “art”? Is he overstating it a bit?
No, not at all. Any manager can follow a flow chart or a timeline but a good manager makes changes like a painter adds a cloud to a skyline or a horse to a pasture. It’s a change that makes sense and adds to the clarity and beauty of the painting.
Yes, change can be an art when it’s done right. Tan summarizes it well with this conclusion:
“Leading and managing change is an intricate task, and even the most experienced change agent will run into obstacles. Using these basic tips will help you stay on course to leading a successful change initiative and making change happen.”
In a demanding international business world of tightening budgets, staff reorganizations and expanding markets, change is inevitable and the success of it revolves around a savvy, principled manager who brings their staff and stakeholders on board.
Take his timeless advice and avoid the inevitable train-wreck. You won’t regret it.
Find Tan’s article and others like it at the Baldrige Resource Library! Membership is free.