Monday, November 25, 2013

The Executive Role in Change Management

It is no surprise that Executives are wary of Change Management:  

  1. Some executives have put their trust in change management systems, investing heavily in CM models only to see their investments become a sunk cost (sometimes with a commensurate loss of business).
  2. Some executives have heard all the presentations and invested only to realize the change team was weak and ineffective.
  3. Some executives see CM as an ad hoc organization off to the side, brought in only as a last resort.
  4. Some executives have trusted external resources (aka Consultants) to help them with a CM model, only to see a poorly executed hand-off from the external resource which resulted in a lack of continuity ultimately resulted in a failed project costing millions.  
  5. Some executives have seen their investment as a waste of time, money and human energy.
Given these experiences, one can hardly blame the skepticism in the executive ranks for this discipline. ... and yet, every one of those executives has had to manage change.  They've sometimes done it the hard way, with brute force, or with organizational savvy/power/political alliances.  And sometimes they've done it because they were ... drum roll ... great change managers (and they didn't even have the title!).

And yet, Change will continue to happen in organizations, and executives play a critical role in Change Management efforts:

Executives perform the following activities during a major change:

·        Prioritization  - Organizations are rife with non-stop changes and new initiatives. Executives prevent Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder from derailing a project.  (See my post on  OADD .)
·        Support – Team selection: Executives ensure a top flight team on their project, provide funding, ongoing communication and leadership modeling.

·        Persistence – Sometimes things don’t go well. Executives keep their hand on the tiller and steer the change ship through deep, rough (and often uncharted) waters.

·        Blocking and Tackling – Sometimes teams need a ‘heavy-hitter’ to get the job done.  Executives are needed when major barriers prevent system implementation. 

Executives play the following roles during a major change:

STRATEGIC EVANGELIST -Managing the strategic nature of the change is critical element of executive change leadership.  Executives need to immerse themselves in the rationale for the change.  They feel it, breathe it, sense it and know exactly why it is necessary for the organization...while the business is conducting day-to-day operations.  You need to have an answer!  If you don’t believe in it, no one else will.

CHESS MASTER - Executives coordinate high level strategic activities – ensuring clarity between initiatives toward an end goal.   

ORGANIZATIONAL "GREAT COMMUNICATOR"  – An executive ensures that everyone knows what’s happening and why.

ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST – An executive helps people adapt to the change, by listening to concerns and offering creative and effective counsel.

FIVE STAR GENERAL – Executives help the team stay the course in the face of struggle and unforeseen consequences.

ORGANIZATIONAL DIPLOMAT – Change will cause organizational impact requiring soothing of egos, smoothing rough edges, and helping cooler heads to prevail.  

What does this mean to executives?  Your role is critical. Research shows that executive support is a critical factor in effective Change Management (see below).   Although your past experiences may have been underwhelming, your leadership capabilities can shape the success of your next organizational change. 
McKinsey - Psychology of Change

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