Change is not a special event, but something that occurs all the time: inside our bodies, weather patterns, and certainly in the world at large. Likewise, the organizations to which we belong experience change as the product of external events and circumstances over which we have no control, or new initiatives we launch to deal with them.
At Roundstone, we believe organizations that have sustained success are those who have developed leaders, who in addition to their knowledge, competence and experience, understand the importance of being resilient. For instance, curious rather than defensive about new realities, nimble to adapt rather than rigid about remaining the same, and capable of inspiring others to take part in a journey of transformation. These leaders are not unique individuals who hold a special gift, but human beings like us, who recognize that embracing change is a fundamental leadership principle. They are conditioned to recognize the need for change early, understand it sooner, and respond proactively to the new “rules of the game” in the business environment where they have to succeed.
Roundstone believes that there are certain leadership competences that are critical for leaders to be consistently effective in the midst of significant change:
Change causes upheaval personally and collectively. Whether a change is unexpected or chosen by us, it may cause us to be suspicious and uncertain; driving us to doubt its positive impact, mourning the loss of old ways of working, sticking to old formulas. Leadership’s capacity to remain “open, centered and connected,” is a key condition to thriving in the midst of uncertainty and flux.
Even when organizational change has been chosen, there will be challenges to its successful execution that must be recognized, and proactive steps that will need to be taken. For instance: Articulating a compelling vision of the future (not as a prediction but a declaration). Forming a core group that will be accountable for its execution, and representative of different perspectives across the organization (this may include people who may be skeptical but trusted by others). Identifying existing ways of operating that are inconsistent with the future to which we are committed. Creating new ways of working together.
Communicating constantly to the whole organization, a mood of urgency, rather than emergency (whether it is celebrating victories, dealing with concerns or acknowledging setbacks).
As much as leaders need to define new goals and create new strategies to navigate organizational change, it is equally crucial that they remain attentive to the transitions that they are asking their people to go through. The greatest plans will fail without the necessary personal engagement to fulfill them. Human beings don’t change overnight, there are stages we will all go through on our way to adapting and becoming effective under new circumstances. Moving people from mourning the past, to embracing the future is paramount, and ultimately the responsibility of leadership.
Making decisions with agility and wisdom
Expect there will be “bumps in the road,” and these situations will not always have an obvious or single solution, or in some cases, a solution at all. A key distinction of change leadership is understanding which “problems” need to be solved and what “dilemmas” need to be managed. The higher you are in our organization, the more likely it is that most of your decisions are about “choosing between right and right” (dilemmas), rather than right versus wrong (problems). For example, when we face issues such as “managing cost” or “fostering innovation,” choosing one over managing both could be the reason for failure.