Six Key Competencies For Change Leaders
Organizations need change leaders who take responsibility for planning and managing change. Change leaders can come from anywhere in the organization. They are individuals in leadership roles, from team leaders to first-level supervisors to senior managers, who initiate, lead, and implement change. Change leaders make sure they do certain things to successfully lead organizational change. Each of these areas is important and, in the aggregate, will enable you to be an effective change leader.
Let's examine each of these six competency areas to provide an overview of this self-study course and to preview what you can anticipate learning as you work through this course.
Understand Change Management
Successful change leaders understand the essentials of change management. This is why we have devoted the first chapter to helping you learn:
This foundational knowledge provides a basis for subsequent chapters. A software manager, Emily, best expressed the importance of acquiring this foundational understanding when she said, "When you're working in an industry that is experiencing lots of change, you're expected to be a change agent. What really helped me was grasping what it means to 'manage change' and approach change with a certain attitude. If I didn't understand some of the fundamentals, it would be impossible to help my team cope successfully with change." Emily's experience is important to remember. Understanding what is required for managing change is essential for leading change with skill and confidence.
Prepare for Change
The ability to lead change effectively begins with preparing for change. We will explore this key competency in Chapter 2, where you will learn how to recognize organizational factors that indicate the need for change and how to act on them. An example of what happened to one manager illustrates the importance of this.
Eve, a manufacturing supervisor for an automotive parts manufacturer, was frustrated by her boss's feedback. He told her that, during a meeting with other department managers, everyone expressed the opinion that the manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system needed a major revision. Her boss told her that "It's too slow, and each month there are too many errors; my peers are tired of telling us about the problems with the system only to have the same problems recur the following month." When I talked with Eve, she explained that she knew the MRP system had serious problems-she dealt with the complaints every month! But she didn't want to take time away from her day-to-day work to make time-consuming improvements. But because she had ignored the need for change, it was imposed on her, and she lost the opportunity to proactively manage it.
We also discuss how to set up change roles, design the change team, and select team members. Finally, you will work through a six-step process to begin setting up the change team.
Manage the Change Journey
You will remember that when we defined change management we learned that a key responsibility is managing the human dynamics. Thus, in Chapter 3 you will learn several techniques that will help you help others deal with change. First, you will gain insight into the negative and positive reactions to change. You will also learn the three-stage transition process promulgated by Dr. William Bridges, which provides insight into the personal journey individuals experience when confronted with change and teaches you how to help people move from feelings of loss to readiness for change.
However, there are other things you need to do to manage the change journey. For example, one of my clients, Clark, who is a human resource manager, designed a new compensation system. He was really excited about it and developed a careful plan to implement it, but it took longer to get the plan in place than anticipated. As Clark explained, "I had to deal with some unexpected consequences of a slower-than-planned implementation. In fact, we had to delay annual salary planning sixty days. One thing I learned: It is really important to do a good job communicating. I underestimated how much information people needed and wanted."
In Chapter 3 you will learn how to create a vision for change, how to implement it, and how to design a comprehensive communication strategy. Finally, you will learn principles for using communication to build support for change.
Build Change Management Skills
Effective change leaders exhibit strong change management skills. In Chapter 4, you will learn the attitudes and behaviors that are associated with six key change management skills. We also look in depth at the issue of resistance to change. You will learn the reasons people resist change and gain insight into what you can do to overcome resistance. Additional skills essential for change leaders are influence skills, which help you persuade others to support your change. You will learn how to diagnose others' preferred communication styles and how to select the appropriate influence approach to respond to each person's preference.
Plan the Change
Chapter 5 is devoted to change management planning. First, you will learn how to diagnose your organization's stage of development and use this analysis to identify opportunities for change. Four strategies for helping your team attain or regain peak productivity are presented. These strategies also teach you how to involve your team in productive change management. Second, you will learn how to take a real-life change and create a six-step implementation plan.
Among the mistakes managers sometimes make in trying to lead change is to deal with too many activities at once or to have no plan of attack at all. Think for a moment of the experience we've all had when the pressure is on and we have fifteen things to do. What happens when we try and do everything at once, assuming everything on the list is equally important? We miss deadlines, make mistakes, forget appointments, disappoint others, and become increasingly frustrated by our inability to get anything done! That's why you will learn how to create a step-by-step plan to guide you from introducing change to its successful implementation.
Chapter 5 also teaches you how to evaluate your change plan and, more important, how to avoid the most common pitfalls that undermine successful change. Chapter 5 ends with a short assessment that summarizes the key activities that lead to successful change planning, communication, and implementation.
Remember that not all change initiatives have to be new. Lots of very important change comes from building on existing initiatives.
Learn from Change
Chapter 6 teaches you how to learn from change. Learning is a continuous process. But sometimes managers miss the rich opportunity change affords to learn valuable lessons that enable them to repeat successes and avoid repeating failure. You will learn how to monitor change initiatives, how to keep them on track, what to do when a change effort gets off track, and how to regain momentum.
You will also gain insight into how to coach others throughout the change process. In change situations, coaching is needed more than ever, as the pressure to learn new processes or behaviors is immediate and sometimes overwhelming. For example, Kate is a nursing supervisor in a large hospital. Health care continues to be a growing field, and Kate's hospital is no exception, adding many new hires every year. As Kate said, "Growth is great, but it really challenges first-level nurse managers to be good change managers. It is amazing how much change happens when teams double in size. Lots of coaching on my part was important to help my managers cope with growth successfully."