01
Mar

-The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.-- Alan Watts

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Is Change is the new ‘normal’ for leadership success and cultural change the new ‘currency’ for growth…?

In these rapidly changing times, leaders and managers need change management skills more than ever before in order to effectively lead their organisational and cultural change programmes. Understanding the priorities and processes involved is imperative to achieving change successfully. Organisations that don’t make changes, risk being left behind, forgotten and risk competitors driving them out of business or possible closure.

Leaders and managers need to know how to engage with their teams more effectively and lead them in a collaborative way to achieve change. They need to understand the barriers that block change and the emotions experienced during the change process. Managers who force change on employees can irreparably damage morale and productivity.

Developing a strong strategy which recognises the strengths and failures of the existing culture, the behaviours that need to change and the ‘who’ and ‘how’ required to implement the changes, is a very key process towards achieving cultural change:

‘Without a strategy, change is merely substitution and not evolution’.

A company’s strategy needs to align with its culture. Too often the strategy, imposed at board level, clashes with the ingrained practices and attitudes of its culture. The effectiveness depends on the cultural alignment – you can’t trade your company’s culture in as if it were a used car. For all its positives and faults, it’s a legacy that remains uniquely yours.

Trying to push through a significant change—a merger, for instance, or business turnaround can feel like an uphill struggle. Cultural tendencies are well embedded in an organisation, for good or bad, so it’s important to draw on the positive aspects of culture, turning them to your advantage, and to offset some of the negative aspects along the way. This approach makes change far easier to implement and to motivate people to embrace change.

Recognising the strengths of your company’s existing culture’s assets

Companies need to see culture as a competitive advantage – an accelerator of change, not an obstacle.
An organisation’s culture evolves over time – sometimes slipping backwards, sometimes progressing – and as leaders, the best you can do is to work with and within them, rather than fight them.

Trying to force a cultural shift to achieve change doesn’t work without clear communication and engagement from employees. There may be strengths in the existing culture which still serve the company well. By evaluating and discussing the positive strengths of your existing corporate culture with employees, and demonstrating the relevance of its original values – by sharing stories that highlight why people believe in them – will make the process of change feel like a shared evolution.

Engaging with employees who are well-connected, who are sensitive to the company culture, and widely respected, is paramount to the successful implementation of change. Employees need to be heard and appreciated.

Implementing behavioural change

Studies show that only 10% of people who have had heart bypass surgery make major changes to their diets and lifestyles afterwards. We don’t change our behaviour even in the face of overwhelming evidence that says we should. Why? Change is difficult. So, it’s important to choose priorities in what behaviours need to change.

The behavioural changes can be small as long as they are widely recognised, embraced and ultimately, implemented. A few key changes that are strongly communicated and emphasised will often see employees emulating them and developing additional ways to reinforce them.

Ask your leadership groups, “If we had the kind of culture we aspire to, in pursuit of the strategy we have chosen, what kinds of new behaviours would be common? And what ingrained behaviours would be gone?”

Developing a ‘peripheral vision’ management style – to see around, beneath and beyond

In today’s razor-edge environment of volatility and uncertainty, leaders and managers are required to have a peripheral vision of the business – to have the ability to instantly react to and manage crisis and change. Additionally, they need to be rigorous in their approach to measuring, monitoring and acting on the cultural evolution.

Leaders need to engage in every aspect of the business and its people. From paying attention to the business performance, critical behaviours, milestones being reached and achieved – as well as those missed, to understanding the key beliefs, feelings and mind-sets of employees towards change.

Identifying top talent and incentivising their retention

To ensure the successful and seamless business continuity to implement change, leaders and managers need to identify who the key talent players are within the organisation and to offer retention incentives which are tailored to their aspirations and concerns – remembering that retention is often about more than money…

These employees may also not be the usual ‘high flying’ suspects but the “hidden gems” whose skills or social networks are critical for business success.

Additionally, in reviewing the ‘top talent’ in the organisation, key talent gaps are often also identified. This may address the multigenerational and diversity gaps within the organisation.

Leaders can no longer gravitate to the generation they belong to but need to embrace a broader multigenerational reach and remain focused on diversity. In recognising the positive influences women, minority groups and multigenerational employees bring to an organisation, will help to multiply the opportunities for growth and innovation.

It’s time to stop dancing around cultural change but to embrace it – it’s been said it’s a “party that never ends…”

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