Building a culture of change leadership

For most organisations, the pace of change in the external environment is accelerating.  The modern enterprise is in a perpetual state of flux to respond to demanding customers and disruptive competitors. Transformation is no longer a one-off event or a destination, but an ongoing evolution. As a result, change management can no longer be seen as a point in time solution. We need to build excellence in change leadership and execution into the DNA of our organisational leaders.

Here we will explore the 5 key steps that you must follow to ensure your business leaders are empowered, enabled and supported in leading change in a sustainable way.

1. Enable business leaders to own and drive the change

By entrusting business leaders with decision rights and transformation responsibilities, it creates an opportunity to develop those that will run the organisation in the future. In order to do this, it is crucial to free up capacity by backfilling BAU tasks, ensuring that these leaders and employees can span both the change agenda and their regular business line duties. If internal capacity is a challenge or capability is lacking, more bandwidth can be sourced externally. However, this is only an interim solution as the mindset should be around transferring knowledge and embedding the expertise within the organisation.

2. Leverage informal networks to instil a culture of change leadership

Informal networks are extremely powerful in helping promote trust, guidance and support through change. When you consider the way your organisation operates, there are people in every location who are the go-to point for information. This group may not have positional authority, but have the organisational credibility, to support the frontline in change adoption.

You should leverage this group and create a structured change champion program around them, to inject leadership at the coalface – this will assist with building the critical capabilities at an operational level. Informal networks provide a trusted channel for engagement and acts as a reliable source of change readiness. They will also be critical for ensuring that change is executed long after implementation.

3. Purposefully shape habits to influence the culture over time

Transformation requires new ways of thinking and behaving – something training alone cannot solve for. By first identifying the behaviours that need to shift to achieve your future state, you will then be able to leverage a variety of channels to turn them into habits which ultimately change the culture over time.

Leaders within your organisation must support the vision and lead by example along with embedding new rituals into the culture. The right training and materials need to be provided to minimise capability gaps, accompanied by an adjustment on existing performance, rewards and recognition systems. This will increase adoption and make the habits stick into the longer-term.

4. Ring fence capacity and resources for embedding after implementation

Implementation is actually the start of the change process.  Real change adoption happens after the change happens.  When planning for what BAU looks like after the change, it is essential to be purposeful in monitoring the path to success and building in capacity to course-correct. Your adoption strategy should chart expectations and outline key milestones that allow you to hold leaders accountable and monitor progress at different points along the journey. It should incorporate ‘After Action Reviews’ to embed continuous learning and confidence. You must also allocate additional resources in the budget to deal with course correction in the event where you have to rectify slow adoption or add in extra leadership support.

5. Build tenacity to allow for continual adoption as change evolves

People often talk about resilience within organisations; however, it really only helps people “survive” change – we want people to be tenacious so that they can thrive through the change. Those with tenacity actively make the most of their environment to springboard themselves to a better place. To build this capability within your organisation you must engage people emotionally with a purpose and reward them for their successes. It’s critical to encourage new thinking, support people to fail-fast and try new things and iterate improvements to make change a normal part of BAU and remove the notion of stability and stagnation.

Key takeaways

Real change happens after implementation. You need to set your organisation up to thrive through execution and beyond, to ensure the change sticks. Empowering leaders to own and drive the transformation, along with leveraging informal networks will really accelerate adoption. Don’t take culture out of scope – you can’t just focus on knowledge and skills, instilling the behaviours into your organisation and turning them into habits is absolutely critical. Be purposeful in charting your expectations of adoption and keep your eye on the ball to ensure you don’t fall off track. And finally, encourage your people to make the most out of their ever-evolving environment – build and support them to be tenacious, not just resilient.

Co-authored by Abhik Sengupta and Natasha Stefos.

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