The rate of change and level of complexity in today’s business environment have escalated so rapidly that it no longer suffices for an organization to just react to change. A company that reacts will be behind the curve and controlled by the forces and competitors around it. To grow and thrive, a business must plan for and proactively manage change in a quick and agile manner. This enables a business to analyze the environment, think through options and then respond in the manner most effective for the situation.
Managing change is no longer optional, and change management is no longer a specialty that can be contracted out to consultants. Leaders must learn to proactively address change and embrace innovation themselves, or be consumed by those around them who do. Integrating change management into a manufacturing organization enables companies to be more agile and responsive to shifting customer and market demands.
While there are many technical strategies and methodologies for managing change, from lifecycle planning to Lean, in most organizations human issues are a primary obstacle to change, both in terms of leader behavior and follower behavior. According to change guru and Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, “The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.”
Human beings are inherently resistant to change. In his book, “Change or Die,” Fast Company’s Alan Deutschman explained that the odds are nine to one that individuals will not alter behavior even when faced with the likelihood of dying prematurely as a result of bad habits. Leaders who read this statistic might question the probability of success in leading less life-threatening initiatives in their organization. However, there are fundamental strategies leaders can adopt to overcome this resistance to change and develop their team’s receptiveness and agility. These strategies include:
Foster engagement and ownership – workers who own change are more likely to roll with it than those who feel change is imposed on them.
Encourage cross functional collaboration – successfully addressing and adapting to change requires implementing a culture of open communication and participation.
Adapt your leadership style – optimize decision-making and flex hierarchy to allow for agility and effective responses to changing problems and needs.
Model the vision for change – be a change champion.
Cultivate creativity – thinking beyond past practices is key to innovation.
Tolerate failure – innovation is a constant cycle of trying, failing and learning from mistakes.
Reward innovation – recognize creativity and successful change as it occurs.
While these change leadership strategies may seem simple, adopting and applying the skills takes practice and discipline. Training yourself and your workforce in change management strategies can equip you and your team to develop the agility needed to succeed today. Leadership development and change management experts like Clark College Corporate Education can help you increase the agility, speed and innovation of your organization to enhance your success in today’s challenging and changing environment.
Michelle Giovannozzi is the director of Corporate and Community Partnerships at Clark College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.