Leading Change Artfully and Smartly

changeChange has been with us since the beginning of our civilization. It is not new. The only change we have experienced these days is that change’s pace has quickened. Now, it happens so fast and on a consistent basis.

Another thing to notice is that change used to affect certain sectors more than others. There are some industries that have been affected by change more frequently and more severely than others. Now, no one is exempted. Change happens at all levels leaving no one from being untouchable. There is no called change free zone. The only question is the degree.

Before we proceed, let me make one thing clear. When we talk about change, there are two types of change- planned and unplanned change. As leaders we should be equipped to provide leadership for both types of change. Let me quickly describe the difference between these two change types.

Unplanned or spontaneous change happens all the time and we don’t have much control about when it happens and we may not have much flexibility to respond to it. It occurs without warning. Like we solve problems, we handle this kind of change without any preplanned preparation.

However, we can create an organizational design that can handle unplanned change smartly. We should also have a system that can turn these kinds of changes that may upset our progress into opportunities. We should also empower our people and create a procedure on how to solve unplanned changes before they affect our goals, which in turn may derail the morale of our people.

In this article, I would like to talk to you about how you could lead planned changes. For these kinds of changes, you need to prepare yourself and your people very well if your desire is to enjoy the full benefits of leading planned changes. When it comes to planned change, you should have an end in mind, and most importantly you should plan ahead to accomplish your change initiative.

This article is aimed at preparing you to lead planned changes effectively. The simple reason being, the more you prepare for a change ahead of the curve, the better you will benefit from the experience; the best you can maneuver and deploy your scarce resources such as your people, time, and finances.

But what we see in some organizations is that leaders and/or team members resisting change as much as they could hold it.

But there are prices for resisting change. What happens when you resist changing your car’s engine oil? What happens if your circulatory system stops refreshing your blood? It doesn’t take a genius to understand the impacts of these kinds of resistances.

When you don’t change the oil of your car’s engine regularly, your car breaks down and leads you to spend your hard earned money to fix it. You’d have saved a lot if you have attended the health of your car by carrying out frequent maintenance including changing your car’s engine oil.

What happens if your blood doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients? Your body gets sick, and even dies. When you get sick, you have to go to a hospital and that definitely drains your bank account. You could have saved yourself from paying these unwanted prices by maintaining the freshness of your blood.

The next question we should ask is “What are the common characteristics of change?” I’ve already mentioned some of the characteristics of change: change is as old as our history, and change doesn’t exempt anyone. Let me add one more important feature of change: Change is a process.

If we agree that change is a process, then, we have to understand this process to succeed as change agents, and play our roles in the different phases of change. We should also study the different models that are available so that we may easily comprehend and also explain how change works to all stakeholders. The latter should know what is expected of them throughout the process of change, and change models are very helpful to accomplish this important task.

Let me share with you three commonly used change models:

  1. Lewis change management model,
  2. Bridges transition model, and
  3. John Kotter change model.

I don’t have enough space to discuss these models. However, if you desire to lead change effectively, make sure to understand these models, explain to your people how they work, and enlist the actions that should be taken under each phase or step. You should also help your people to know their roles and responsibilities under each stage of change.

Many researches show that change agendas fail because of the leaders’ inability to engage all stakeholders. Change requires the participation of all stakeholders including resisters and fence sitters.

In conclusion, the art of leading change is one of the most important prerequisites to succeed as a leader of the 21st Century. Go back and review history. Ask yourself, why this and that company succeeded while this and that failed. You would be surprised that the former were skillful in recognizing the coming of change ahead of the curve, and in their ability to communicate and artfully lead change.

Just one quick example; why Senator Obama won his 2008 presidential bid? There could be many reasons but he understood that the traditional way of raising fund was gone. He was willing to change with the time while his counter parts failed to sense the change. He embraced Information Technology, mobilized the young generation who have had no such significant role in sending presidents into the White House.

Other presidential candidates who were well able and experienced than him failed to sense the importance of using the Internet and engaging in grassroots level fundraising. They stumbled and unable to change. They stuck with the old way of doing things, and they paid a price. They pursued the traditional form of fundraising by involving big donors. Obama gave the option to ordinary citizens to donate as small as 5 dollars, and online.

What is more? He communicated his change agenda very effectively using his website, cell phones, and social media. Otherwise, almost all candidates talked about change but they failed to communicate effectively with the majority of young voters.

Go and also study why some CEO’s are paid lavishly? One of the reasons is that they have this discernment ability to sense change ahead of the curve before it affects their organization. They dive deep into the future and lead change that positions their organizations strategically to enjoy competitiveness.

They’re good team players and able to engage all stakeholders. No wonder why these kinds of leaders are paid well, promoted, celebrated, and sought after. You too can also join these elite leaders who know how to lead change smartly, artfully, and effectively.

About the Author:
Dr. Assegid  Habtewold is the lead coach, consultant, and trainer at Success Pathways, LLC. Assegid has an outstanding skill in facilitating interactive leadership development workshops in the US for diverse audience since 2007. He specializes in facilitating workshops on themes such as Change Management, Inclusion and Cultural Sensitivity, Conflict Management, Analysis and Problem Solving, Feedback Giving and Receiving, Emotional Intelligence, Building Coalitions, Coaching Skills, Motivation, Negotiation, Team Building, Communication, Time Management, and Strategic Thinking and Planning. Assegid holds a Doctorate of Veterinary Degree (DVM) from Addis Ababa University, Master’s in Computer Science from University of Northern Virginia, and Doctor of Strategic Leadership from Regent University.

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