Leading change – are you enabling your organisation to be change ready?
I have been delivering change programmes for well over 15 years and like many others in the profession I have a tried and tested set of tools I use to support organisations navigating change. There is however one thing a change and project professional cannot change alone – the impact the leadership of your sponsors has on the success of your project.
If you are serious about genuine sustainable change, you need help create the environment for it to flourish and you need to consider if your project sponsors are enabling your organisation to be change ready.
Want to succeed? Then read on:
1. Leaders walking the talk
Culture maybe unwritten in most organisations but it is well known by most individuals – that is because, it is demonstrated daily by the leadership that surround employees.
In fact, countless studies show the importance successful transformations place on leaders demonstrating the new values of the change. A recent McKinsey study shows that change initiatives with visible, persistent and positive demonstration of the new values at leadership level meant initiatives were six times more likely to succeed compared with those without.
When it comes to change, if leaders continue to sit in their ivory towers barking orders with little skin in the game then then you can be sure that delivering the change will be more difficult and sustaining it will be practically impossible. As a project management professional you need to be raising these disconnects as risks and holding stakeholders to account as clearly it not just the workers that deliver the value.
2. Humility and honesty
Too often organisations send out boring, functional presentation slides which are communicated one-way or are delivered in an environment where honesty and openness in feedback exposes the individual without reward – the standard town hall launching a change makes me shudder. The wall of silence is often misinterpreted as acceptance by those presenting change, which we all know is far from the truth. If leaders are unable or worse unwilling to create an environment for open and honest feedback, with a clear intention to listen then sadly resistance to the change will build.
The more project managers can facilitate feedback, making leaders and sponsors address concerns, then more open a conversation your employees will be willing to have and the more engaged they are likely to be. I cite a rather old Forbes study from 2013 which canvassed 22,000 leaders and reported that, the top 10 per cent of leaders willing to hear feedback had significantly higher scores of engagement from employees.
3. Make it personal/make it real
Organisations don’t just seamlessly change, it takes almost every individual involved in the change to have changed to deliver the desired outcome. As much as we want quick fixes to delivering change, the reality is that managers and leaders need to support individuals through the change. Individuals will need different levels of support so it is unlikely to monopolise their time, but it will pay dividends when people resist less.
As a project manager you need to spot coaching opportunities for project sponsors and line managers and ensure your project plans pay as much attention to people development and wellbeing alongside the key time, risk and cost factors.
Additionally, an important part of supporting others is in helping them learn and there is no better way to learn than through experience. Two of my favourites learning methods are storytelling and gamification. In both cases it creates the playful way for you to engage employees in the changes and the challenge and test what is coming. Only when individuals feel some emotional attachment to the change do they actively engage with it so project plans should begin consider such ‘show and tell’ type activities.
Leadership is the elephant in the room and most resistance is grounded in the culture it defines. When we see leaders showcasing the new ways of working that align to the change and change is put into words, pictures and experiences that connect employees, the results are smoothly navigated and often rapid adoption of new ways of working. Leaders get the speed they need and the happy staff that keep the organisation humming along – what project manager doesn’t want to be at the helm of change delivered like that.