You must be the change you wish to see in the world. 

Mahatma Gandhi



This simple quote of 12 words is the foundation of all change management efforts. You as the leader must be the change that you want your team to adopt.  People believe what they see. Words will not enable a team to change, your action will. 

Looking back over our series on change you will see a consistent theme. Change is about people.  Technology and process may enable or support change but that is all. Change starts and ends with changing the mind-set and attitude of the people. 

People will change their mindsets only if they can see that it matters and that they can fundamentally agree with it. They don’t need to be in full agreement but they do need to agree enough to trust giving it a try. The surrounding infrastructures (recognition and reward systems, process improvement or simplification, organization model, etc.) must be in place to support the change.  The people must have the skills and capabilities to do what the change requires.  Last but not least, the people must respect those modeling the change – that would be you. 

Let’s look at each of these areas a little deeper.

The change matters and they believe in it

Studies have shown that if people believe in the overall purpose behind the change, they will be change their behavior to match that purpose.  To feel comfortable with the change they must understand their role.  To be enthusiastic about the change they must understand how their actions impact the outcome of the change.  This requires that you as the leader take the time to build their story in terms that they will trust and believe it.  I say their story as it must be more than how it will affect the organization’s profit margin.  The story is only effective if it portrays their role in making delivering services to the external consumer.  The more you can share how they make a difference the more it matters. This is human nature.  We all want to feel and believe that our actions make a difference.  

The change is rewarded and recognized.

Rewards and conversely punishment systems alone do not sustain change.  Sorry about that. Wouldn’t it be easy if it did!  Reward systems provide value initially. After a relatively short time the employee will lose sight of the reward if the other 3 areas are ignored. Organizational designers have found that reporting structures, management and operational processes, and measurement procedures – setting targets, measuring performance, and granting financial and non-financial rewards – must be consistent the behaviors the people are asked to embrace. 1

Again that is you, the leader.   For example, if the manager is required to spend time coaching an employee through a change, but coaching is not included on their performance management scorecard, they most likely won’t bother.  Reflect back to “be the change you wish to see”.

The right skills are in the right place

Sometimes, many times, a transformational change asks the employee to act different without preparing or teaching them how.  The how might require a change in instruction or practice. The how might require picking up a new responsibility with a new skill.   You might be asking them to customer centric when they don’t know who the customer is or what “centric” means to them.  It is up to you to assure they are prepared.

Change is most effective when an impact assessment with a mitigation plan is performed before the change is announced. This assessment will identify the staff impacted, the change management requirements, training and coaching needed down to the individual team member level.  Change takes time and is best offered in small chunks of learning.  Without the assessment you are entering a maze, without a light,  just feeling your way through it.

There is a strong role model to follow

That is you the leader. People believe what they see.  Role models are not only the individual’s manager but the executive team all of the way to the CEO/President.  In some dramatic transformational changes, the board of directors as well.  During time of change every word you say, every action you take is analyzed and scrutinized for meeting. It can be daunting.   What you do is less important than how you do it.  

If cost containment is a corporate mantra, actions at the senior rank may appear frivolous by the people. Let me give you a simple example. A global organization recognized that it cost structure was well out of line with a company of their size.  An assessment revealed that general administration costs where four times that of their peers.   A policy was quickly put in place to immediately eliminate all non-essential travel, catered lunch and entertainment.  The exception to the rule was the box seats at the local arena.  The employees questioned why this spend would be allowed.    What they did not understand that the box seats was a fixed spend under a multi-year contract.    The executive leaders could have continued to use the box seats for client entertainment. They did not. Instead they used the seats for incentives through raffles and team building exercises.

Behavior is not only modeled at the individual level but by affiliation groups as well. Say that the IT Leader is taking action to simplify process and leading by example the mantra of change.   If groups of long time employees spend their time around the coffee pot complaining that this too shall pass, individuals will not feel the need or pressure to change.

Here is where you come in.  If you can buy in to the concept that a successful change program starts and ends with the people, you should be able to buy into the reliance change has on the story behind the change.  The consistency of the story most permeate from the executive leaders down to every employee.   The messaging cannot be a few posters on the wall or a power point reflecting bullets.  The message must be consistently delivered in the form of a dialogue with built in two way communication. 

A change leader will recognize the feedback heard and course correct on the fly. It really isn’t as artsy as it sounds, but it does require active listening, questioning in a non-threatening away, and truly demonstrating belief in the change they wish to live.  Change is hard.  Realizing the outcome of change is a beautiful thing. 

This concludes our discussion on change.  As we wrap up I welcome your feedback, questions and comments.   Next week, we will begin a new series discussing staffing and service models, pros, cons and risk and ramifications. 

 Until next time, have a great week!  Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday with family and friends. 

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