Change Leadership: When Change Management Is Not Enough

Ask any IT professional if they have a repeatable process for Change Management (CM) and you can expect an unequivocal “Yes we do!” as the response, and likely suffer a sideways glance wondering what motivated such a ridiculous question. Actually, they have no other choice when we consider the nature of Change in the scope of their IT world. Systems constantly change to meet new business demands, and/or software applications need frequent additions or modifications. Rigorous testing procedures, validation, and documentation are required. Timelines and project management accountabilities assigned, synchronized, monitored, and jeopardy situations identified to activate contingencies (planned in advance). This all makes perfect sense, right? Now consider this question: “Is IT the only organization in your enterprise involved in Change?” Of course not! Why then are they the only ones with a formal, repeatable Change process?

Culture of Continuous Learning Drives Continuous Change

Take IT out of the equation for a moment and consider a transformational change like adopting a continuous learning model. Does that adoption to a new learning model eliminate technology standards, complex workflows, and certifications that demand low tolerance for error, potential for poor quality output, and avoidance of extraordinary waste if not executed effectively? Change of this nature certainly calls for robust CM activities. Unfortunately, implementation of a transformational change like a continuous learning model involves shifting thinking, changing behaviors, and driving new outcomes – preferably the sustainable variety. Tactical CM is a requirement, but it will not generate enough momentum to bridge the gap between deployment and implementation. This is a perfect example where Change Leadership (CL) is required to expand the scope of shepherding sustainable Change in and across the organization.

Regardless of the nature of Change, ripple effects across related or dependant business functions imply interdependent changes in human performance. CM works well with the tactical aspects of change, but let Change engage people to pursue new strategy and embrace new thinking and the key CL principles of inspire, influence, inclusion, and integration (I4) become invaluable in generating critical mass.

Going back to our continuous learning example, there are three critical categories of business enablers that must be addressed with at least as much rigor as IT’s tactical components of Change. Each has tactical components, and each is rife with new thinking with implications that embedded traditions must change:

Learning Culture – Is continuous learning a strategic priority in the organization?
Learning Methodology – Is learning design capable of supporting a continuum?
Learning Technology – Is access to learning seamless, frictionless, & ubiquitous?

Certainly, you would expect an IT model to be involved with technology, and in some cases, methodology. What “IT models” do not typically address, nor do most CM efforts, are effective and sustainable impacts in the first category – Culture, be it learning-oriented or otherwise. Here is where the CM approach comes up short. The missing ingredient is leadership and its change-critical drivers of influencing, inspiring, including, and integrating different behaviors – and ultimately – driving different, measurable, human performance outcomes. Cultural changes imply involvement of “people”, and people need strong, consistent leadership when Change requires different performance and expectations of different outcomes – not the least of which are new knowledge, skills, and competencies derived through continuous learning.

When behavioral expectations change, individual contributors need answers to key questions, whether they express their desire to know verbally or covertly through resistance, or even deliberate sabotage of Change initiatives. Consider the behavior impacting, people-relevance of answers to these questions:

– What are my expectations?
– What will I have to do differently? When?
– What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
– Who is dependent on the success of my contributions? What is at risk if I fail?
– What are expectations for my department due to this Change?
– What value does my contribution bring to the business because of this Change?
– How will I know if I am successful – my department – the company?
– What does everyone else think about doing “it” differently?
– Who is going to train me – when – where – how?
– Where do I go for support after training?
– Is this Change temporary or permanent?
– Does senior leadership support this Change? Who is sponsoring this Change?
– We’ve tried this before…Why will it be any different this time?

None of these questions represent shocking revelations to any of us involved in enabling effective human performance; yet do we address all consistently as a function of effectively managing Change? Not routinely. Neglecting to anticipate the importance of answering these questions often promotes unseen factors that contribute to the undoing of the best-managed Change projects.

CM prepares them to DO.

CL prepares THEM to do.

If we manage Change effectively without leading Change consistently for the people involved, we have only addressed half the equation to achieving a sustained capability and can anticipate proportionate results.

Effective Change Management ≠ Effective Change Leadership

We have to give credit to our IT brethren because they recognized the importance of building a “machine” to ensure accurate repetition of a consistently rigorous process regardless of complexity. Were they visionaries, or were they just employing good survival instincts? Honestly, it is a bit of both, especially when budgets are so slim that only a few projects get through funding scrutiny and get the cherished “green light”.

Who can afford to botch an expensive project, when it represents one of twelve others originally under consideration? Do not misunderstand; CM is essential, and it always will be. This paper makes the case for an additional layer inclusive of the tenets of CM that addresses critical attributes of leadership. Why? Effective leadership exemplifies a positive business culture for Change through four critical deliverables:

Influence embedded thinking that opens the door for new behaviors by people
Inspiration to encourage reshaping attitudes and values to promote acceptance of Change by people
Inclusion to ensure diversity of opinion and depth & breadth of engagement
Integration of Change into new or different routinized work habits of people

Foundationally, CM does not have a primary focus on these four aspects of effective leadership – bumps up against “integration” but only from a new “system deployment” perspective, falling short on the routinization required for effective implementation. CM is better adapted to handle tactical things like processes, workflows, and project management. CM does not address the cultural leadership aspects of influencing, inspiring, inclusion, and integrating necessary behaviors that drive sustainability of well-managed Change. Change Leadership (CL), on the other hand, does address those missing cultural aspects. Omitting or disregarding the cultural/people implications of Change are often the top reasons why well-intended Change does not deliver sustainable results.

We have all been part of significant Change efforts and endured organization-wide, deployment gala events to kick-off a new way of doing things. Total Quality Management (TQM) back in the 1990’s comes to mind as a classic example. We all remember the party to celebrate adoption of TQM methodology – the balloons, the clowns, 3-bite shrimp, and cheesy noisemakers, but by the time the confetti disappeared, things were well on their way back to business as usual. What Change? TQ-what? Guess what? We nailed deployment, but somebody forgot implementation!

Deployment is deceptively easy. Take vendor evaluation and selection for new learning management systems as an example. Industry statistics reveal that more LMS owners are not happy with results of their deployments than those that are. Why? Are those statistics reflective of deploying the wrong technology? Unfortunately, dissatisfaction most often stems from poor implementation. CM, in and of itself, failed the test of producing sustainability – despite flawless deployment. “Cultural” elements of a change in the introduction of innovative learning technology should have been simultaneously addressed – should have been aligned across multiple levels within the organization – and only those four CL deliverables of influence, inspire, inclusion, and integrate could do that effectively.

Try to change something decidedly more nebulous than a piece of hardware – like evolving learning to a dynamic ecosystem – or choose anything else that is fraught with embedded values, belief systems, and reliant on modifying or separating rote behaviors from trusted tribal knowledge. Watch those in the organization who dig in their heels and resist your efforts, impeding your chances of driving efficient, effective, and sustainable Change.

If effective CL is not integrated into whatever CM model your organization uses, human resources (the people – not the department), necessary to make the Change effort “stick”, will not respond consistently or willingly to the notion of “build it, and they will come”. CM handles the “build it phase” because that is what it is best suited to do. The “getting them to come phase” is exclusively CL’s domain – without critical engagement and leadership necessary to inspire, include and influence adoption of the Change, chances of sustainability are greatly diminished. First-hand experience predicts that CM alone will not sustain Change, no matter how effectively we managed the deployment effort.

Critical Success Factors for Leading Change

There are ten critical success factors specific to a repeatable Change Leadership (CL) model. Simultaneous application of these factors with the traditional, tactical regimen of effective CM is foundational to sustainable results. They include:

Validation – How do we convince business-organization-department-individual that Change is necessary? What is the business case for Change?
Calibration – What are the tangible business performance indicators of successful change? Are there intangible benefits to include?

Sponsorship – Which leader is willing to commit to the change, be accessible and visible to the organization and the Change team?

Value Proposition Cascade – What is the “localized” value message at every level impacted by the Change?

Road Map Development – What is the plan to communicate, prepare, inform, equip, sell, train, and support this Change event?

Mobilization – What resources need to be engaged to execute the road map? What is the timeline of events? Who is involved?

Readiness – Integration of a Learning Continuum that covers learning holistically from formal training to collaborative knowledge sharing and informal just -in-time- learning.

 – What are the scope and logistics of the GoLive event? Is there a pilot launch or an en masse flash-cut for GoLive?
Implementation – How does the change event integrate into routine workflows? Examining what really changed?

Sustained Capability – How do we effectively communicate and celebrate success? Share best practices? Harvest learning? Integrate into future learning? How and when and who measures the outcomes? (see Calibration)

Notice that we separate deployment and implementation in this model.

Deployment implies the physical aspects of activating the new technology and/or writing new methods and procedures to use a new process effectively. Implementation, on the other hand, involves influencing people to use the technology effectively and/or to follow new methods consistently in the context of doing their jobs.

Implementation involves “people” functions and requires leadership to inspire and influence their behavior as well as set expectations to integrate Change behaviors into day-to-day work routines. Leadership must visibly reinforce the Change effort in a number of ways. These drivers form the cultural heart of CL.

Change Leadership’s Impact on Performance Enablers

Change looks good on paper. In fact, Change plans are very similar in design to football plays drawn up in the team playbook. If the team executes a play exactly as planned, the result is a touchdown. Why then does that philosophy not work consistently on game day? Every play (plan) is perfect until players (people) are involved and actual performance is impacted by any number of influences, including the more obvious, like failure to perform effectively, lack of preparation (readiness), lack of ability (knowledge or skills), or environmental obstacles blocking execution from an aggressive defense (internal resistance or external obstacles like regulatory demands or direct competition). As any performance consultant will tell you, there are several categories of enablers that affect human performance. The severity of impact determines whether a Change initiative will be successful, or more importantly – sustainable. We can bundle these human performance enablers under several categories listed below with several examples:

Leadership – Clarity of Vision, Mission, Direction, Business Strategy & Goals, Effective Communication & Direction, Coaching & Feedback, Leadership & Management Effectiveness, Appropriate Dashboard Metrics, Effective Change Management, etc.
Capability – Knowledge, Skills & Abilities, Competencies & Attributes, Selection & Staffing, Performance Management, Training Programs, Curriculum Alignment/Maps/Tracks, etc
Motivation – Personal Needs, Team Dynamics, Compensation & Incentive Plans, Rewards & Recognition, Career Development, Inclusion, Wellness, etc.
Process – Business Policies, Business Process Definition & Documentation, Task & Sub-Task (Methods & Procedures), Workflow Efficiency, Operational & Job Design, Operational Roles & Responsibilities, Process Improvement, etc.
Resources – Technology Infrastructure, Connectivity, Access to Content, Access to People, Software, Performer Support, Tools, etc.
Environment – Organizational Design, Ergonomics, Measurement Criteria, Metrics, Internal/External Influences, Diversity, Culture, etc.

The tactical nature of CM addresses process and resources, and often, some elements that fall under environment. The tactical nature of new processes and workflows may also imply improving capabilities through training programs and continuous learning that deliver new knowledge and/or skills, thus bolstering essential competencies.

CL also embraces capability through continuous learning as a function of strategic business alignment; however, the overlap ends there. CM does nothing to address motivation or leadership requirements of the people involved. Can you see where CM’s role has the potential to fall short after the tactical activities of deployment are successfully completed? Integration of CL will fill those important cultural gaps that were never the intent of CM to cover.

Change Leadership as a Repeatable Model

The solution?

Deploy and implement a repeatable CL model around the efforts you already expend to drive effective CM. This approach will carry your organization beyond deployment of Change and deliver integration of Change that renders sustained capability. There are several reasons a repeatable model is important:

– Establish consistent, “localized” expectations regarding Change early and often for those on the receiving end of the initiative.
– Establish consistent expectations and rigor of process to those on the driving end of the Change initiative.

– Compress the timeline for planning and preparing for leading Change by utilizing templates to ensure consistency of approach.

– Provide a process for frequent formative evaluations throughout the timeline to fine tune and align (or re-align) an effective leadership approach.

– Provide a robust, two-way, feedback loop across multiple levels of the organization to ensure consistently aligned communications.

– Identify actionable, dashboard metrics aligned with appropriate levels of management suitable to reinforce identification and communication of tangible results.

It is critical to implement a proven, repeatable Change Leadership Model that seamlessly integrates all ten critical success factors with the CM diligence already utilized by your organization. Remember that driving effective Change is only tactical in nature – until people are involved. Being able to address varying complexity and the continuous nature of Change are primary drivers for establishing a methodology that lends itself to repetition. The needs of people involved in Change are no less complex or varying than the tactical nature supported by CM.

Change in any business is inevitable, and one of the few things we can count on to be consistent. Desired outcomes are not automatic, and they are certainly not sustainable without effective, post-deployment reinforcement during implementation. Reaching those desired outcomes are determined by how well we “manage the process and lead the people” who are going to perform differently due to Change.

It may be time to add a little CL to your CM.

If you would like to integrate the concepts into your organization, we should chat…

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker 
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning