Leadership Is Change Management

One of my favorite distinctions between management and leadership is that management tames complexity and leadership drives change. They don’t have to be separate people and in fact the most successful CEOs are competent in both.

Unfortunately, some in leadership roles believe that change management is a project with a start and end date rather than a requisite skill for a leader.  Particularly in today’s world, if you are not changing, you’re probably heading for an invisible brick wall.

Disruption is everywhere and that is both frightening to the status quo and exciting for those who are disrupting! Whether you are the disruptee or the disruptor, you’re driving change as a leader—either creating it or responding to it—and it’s a lot more fun to create it!

I understand a CEO who has been in a static situation and never developed change management skills wanting to bring in a resource to help him or her gain the knowledge required to facilitate and drive change. I don’t understand, however, how a CEO can bring in some from outside to lead a large change management effort. I’m talking here about large movement like executing a different strategy, a complete overhaul of your sales force, or a sharp shift in culture, not just changing out your phone system. That’s like hiring a coach to work out for you. The work will get done, but there will be no results.

There are some functions that lend themselves to bringing in an extra pair of hands (i.e. contract work). If you are short staffed in the accounting department and need to speed up the processing on invoices for example. However, if a CEO does not understand change management at least at a high level, progress will be tough.

There are lots of change management models out there and if you went to business graduate school in the last few decades you probably studied one. Understanding and internalizing the steps, whichever model you use, is important, but it starts with the awareness that change does not just happen without effort and understanding. Putting yourself in your peoples’ shoes and asking how they will respond and why they will change is important. How can you best articulate and support the change you are looking for?

A senior executive from Xerox that I was privileged to work with years ago used to talk about “take a pill” managers and leaders who thought that they could just send out a memo and that things would magically happen. I don’t know about you, but that didn’t work with my children or the organizations that I led.

Here are some questions to answer that should get you on the right path.

  1. Why do we need to change?
  2. What will success look like?
  3. What resources are required?
  4. Who will naturally support this and who will fight it?
  5. What support will people need to succeed?
  6. Does our reward system need to change to support this?
  7. How can I best articulate this change?
  8. Who can help me plan the steps required?

Or, you could just send out the memo.

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  • Bob Dodge

    4:41 pm September 28, 2020

    Your link to the Change Management Models is quite thorough (even though it excludes LaMarsh).

    This topic is particularly timely this year. Be like Jim Stockdale; be optimistic but communicate that there will be challenges.

    Good job, as usual, Todd!

    • Todd Ordal

      11:10 am November 9, 2020

      Thanks, Bob! Good reference to Stockdale!