The 8 key steps for successfully leading change

By - Olivier
07 Mar 2022 18:41

Overcome resistance and implement change successfully

Implementing change within an organization is never an easy task. Most often than not, a high level of resistance by the employees must be overcome in order to ensure the perennity of the business. 

Change management is key to a successful transition and different styles of change management could be used. The style needs to be tailored for the organization and employees.

Styles of management
- Education and Communication
- Collaboration and Participation
- Interaction
- Direction
- Coercive

Once the company’s management understand and decides on the style (or styles) of management to be adopted, the actual change process can begin. This is where mistakes can be done and resistance encountered.

To lead the business to a successful change, it is crucial to follow the eight steps presented below:

Creating a climate for change

1. Creating a sense of urgency

“75% of a company’s management needs to be behind a change for it to be successful” (Kotter, 1995).

The first step when implementing change is to “unfreeze” the existing culture to ensure a transformation of the existing paradigm. It is important to start discussing with employees the company’s situation and build up the staffs’ involvement in discussions about the best direction to take. The way to go about this process may slightly differ based on the management style that is deemed best.

The window of opportunity to implement the necessary change may be short and it is fundamental to act at the right time and create a “need” for change rather than “wanting” to change.

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Creating a sense of urgency” stage are as follows:

• What is at stake for the company?
• What is at stake for the employees?
• What is the best way forward?
• Who are the external individuals that can help lead the change?
• What are the priorities and what needs to be taken care of first?

2. Form a powerful coalition

Once a sense of urgency has been created and the need for adjustments become an evidence, the management team trying to push for the change must ensure that the right people are on-board with their ideas and in their team.

It is important to identify members’ of the organization with different skills, roles and experience that are respected by the rest of the team and build a coalition to lead the remaining employees.
Without a strong alliance who can guide and support the change, the customary habits will stick and continue to impact negatively the business.

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Form a powerful coalition” stage are as follows:

• Who are the natural team leaders?
• Who will have the capacity to lead the change with management?
• What are each employees’ strengths and weaknesses?
• Who are the most committed employees?

3. Create a vision for change

Management’s initiatives to implement change may be hard to understand for employees at the low end of the company’s hierarchy. A clear, easy to understand strategic vision must be drawn and communicated to guide the way forward.

The vision must also aim to enthuse employees in order for it to have the best possible impact.

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Create a vision for change” stage are as follows:

• What are the desired outcomes?
• What is the best way to achieve the goal?
• What motivates the members’ of the organization?
• How will the future differ if we implement this change?
• Is there a big opportunity that will be missed if we do not act quickly?

Engaging and enabling the organization

4. Communicate the vision

Once the vision is set by management and supported by the coalition, the communication of the latter becomes important. A clear and concise communication strategy must be established and implemented to ensure it is in every member of the organization’s mind. 

This vision for change must be seen everywhere in the office and reminded as often as possible to ensure everyone is on the same path. 

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Communicate the vision” stage are as follows:

• What are the usual communication channels within the organization?
• What are new/innovative ways that we could use to communicate our message?
• What is the most appropriate way to communicate a specific message for each employees?

5. Empower actions

Before empowering actions, it is necessary for the management team to analyze and remove the barriers’ blocking the path to change. These obstacles come in forms of inefficient processes, individuals, behaviors or physical hurdles that reduce productivity and stops innovation. 

Once these barriers have been removed, push the employees to act upon the change strategy. These teams need to be pushed into coming up with innovations and processes to decrease the existing bottlenecks. 

“Innovation is less about generating brand new ideas and more about knocking down barriers to making those ideas a reality” (Kotter, 1995).

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Empower actions” stage are as follows:

• What are the existing barriers that negatively impact the company’s performance?
• What are the past initiatives that failed?
• Why these past initiatives failed?
• How to push the team members to come up with solutions or innovative ideas?
• What additional resources will be needed at this point?

6. Create quick wins

To encourage the employees on the company’s transformative journey, management must create quick wins rather than expect the teams to be self-motivated by long-term goals that they might feel disconnected from. Short-term targets are the key to long-term success.

Every positive results, big or small must be collected, categorized and rewarded for the employees to feel that a tangible change is happening and to positively impact of their psyche. 

“These wins, and their celebration, can carry great psychological power and play a crucial role” (Kotter, 1995).

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Create quick wins” stage are as follows:

• What short-term wins are relevant to the long-term goal?
• How to reward the quick wins?
• How to ensure these quick wins motivate the employees?
• Are these quick wins clear and concise?

Implementing and sustaining change – to build a new paradigm

7. Build on the change

“If urgency drops sufficiently and momentum is lost, pushing complacency away a second time can be much more difficult than it was the first” (Kotter, 1995).

Once, management and employees celebrated their quick wins, contentment may start to creep in. The changes need to be cemented even more at this point to increase the credibility of the overall strategy. Management needs to build up on the existing drive.

It is important to keep setting goals, keep analyzing the changes implemented and ensure that the new structure and paradigm are getting into place successfully.

The key questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during the “Build on the change” stage are as follows:

• How to sustain the momentum?
• How to get even more people involved?
• Who can we get, as a “fresh pair of eyes”, to identify additional barriers to change?
• Should we reexamine the “urgency-raising” activities implemented at the start of the process?

8. Make it stick

Common mistakes made by companies is the lack of monitoring, failure to understand the existing culture, failure to involve the right people in the change process and finally to understand the extent of the overall challenge.

The last step is to ensure that all the efforts that were put in do not go to waste. Management needs to ensure that the new “way of doing things”, culture, processes, structures and overall changes implemented become the new paradigm.

Long-lasting changes are the result of constant effort and ensuring that the right decisions, choices and actions are taken on a day-to-day basis, for the business to be successful. 

A collective recognition by the team members of the business’ transformation journey and where it benefits them will be the success to leading and implementing change.

The final questions to ask yourself and your colleagues during this process are as follows:

• How do we ensure the new paradigm sticks?
• Do we have the right structure and leadership in place to make this change permanent?
• Are there any inconsistent behaviors/actions that needs to be removed?
• How to ensure constant innovation and networking?