LEADING ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE: THE WHY, WHAT AND HOW?
The idea of ‘change’ is often very exciting for all of us from the confines of the 4 walls of a boardroom. Everybody loves the idea of change. But oddly, in most situations, nobody wants to make the change and very few leaders want to really take up the responsibility to lead the change. Change, though inspiring as a concept, carries with it hurdles that humans are habitually designed to resist against.
“All healthy organizations have antibodies against change. These antibodies are called efficiency, process and consistency.” – Dr. Les Buckley
Dr. Les Buckley in a virtual learning and development program hosted by XED Institute of Management and delivered by Singapore Management University (SMU) broke down the process of effectively executing change in an organization. Dr. Les’s insights from his 36 years of experience and his learnings from experimenting with change all along, provided invaluable takeaways on how to embrace change for the leaders who participated in the session. Dr. Les called out that the significance of leading change is a lot more important in today’s time of crisis when organizations globally are inventing new approaches to maximize efficiency and to keep/claim pole positions in their respective industries.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES TO ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE?
A top-down approach for implementing change is often detrimental to the performance of employees in an organization. Dr. Les cited the example of ‘Englishnization’ in Rakuten, a leading online retailer in Japan. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO and Chairman made an abrupt speech announcing English to be the exclusive language for communication within Rakuten. This decision was based on his understanding that globalization was the way forward for Rakuten. Though the Japanese youngsters and foreign nationals working in Rakuten found the move progressive, the older native Japanese employees felt threatened and violated by the decision. Dr. Les used the example to highlight that change does not affect every individual in the organization in the same way. It is important for leaders to recognise that there are multiple stages that one goes through when exposed to change. Even in nature, a caterpillar goes through the struggle of metamorphosis to fly out as a beautiful butterfly.
WHAT ARE THE 4 STAGES OF ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE?
Complacency – overly content with the present
Denial – hanging onto the past
Confusion – trailing and exploring but unsure
Inspiration – willing to experiment and is ready to change
One approach cannot work for all. Every organization going through change will have members in all the 4 stages of change. So, it is important for leaders to recognize that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Parallel actions have to be taken to truly address the resistance and support the team members to accept and execute the change.
“Change happens when the support for change, overcomes the forces inhibiting change.” – Dr. Les Buckley
WHY INFLUENCE PEOPLE TO INSPIRE ORGANISATION WIDE CHANGE?
A leader must begin change by creating awareness within the organization. The reason behind the decision should be a strong story that all members part of the organization can emotionally connect with. The next step after awareness is to create interest. Interest is developed by a logical and credible reason explaining why the change will create gains for all the individuals involved in the change. After creating interest, there should be a platform of trial for individuals to mitigate anxiety and start to believe in the change by practice. The final step of influencing people is to adapt the change. The leader should lead by example and instil among the individuals a sense of want to implement the change.
“He who has a why, can bear any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Leaders are recognised by their team as powerful and credible when they can truly empathize with their people. When people understand the emotional as well as logical reason for change, they feel empowered and supported to push through the 4 stages to actualise the decision of change. Dr. Les concluded by proposing his big idea of leading change, by asking the leaders, to spend 19% of resources on the “how” and 81% of time, money and energy on the “why”!