As a company working with leaders and their organizations on change efforts for more than 30 years, we are often brought in after their own change efforts have failed. Why?
Leaders know their companies better than anyone. They spend most of their time thinking about their business. They’re experts at looking at the big picture of the business and they have experts across their business who understand very discrete areas or capabilities, so these leaders clearly recognize and value the importance of expertise. In fact, many bring in consultants/experts to craft strategies for the business, spending millions of dollars on a plan without blinking an eye.
Yet, when it comes to ensuring that strategy comes to life and can be sustained over time, leaders make a fraction of the investment to ensure success. By fraction, I mean like less than 1%. Seems kind of crazy, right? Further conversation with leaders often reveals that they haven’t anticipated or budgeted for any additional expense to effectively bring their strategy to their people with the belief that they can just do it themselves. Hum, why wouldn’t you bring in an expert who specializes in this? Someone who knows and has a proven methodology that ensures strategy success? Why would you take that risk? You wouldn’t!
Try this approach:
- You wouldn’t remove your own appendix, would you? Don’t go it alone, find the expert who is equally invested in the success of bringing your change effort to life. Someone you can partner with, who is with you throughout the process. Who doesn’t hand you a piece of paper or a 100-page PPT deck and then say, ‘have at it’ and ‘good luck’.
- Get everyone in the game. There are lots of change processes out there designed to give you focus and accountability, but most don’t address the pivotal and fundamental role of emotionally and intellectually engaging your people in the process. They forget about the actual determinate of success. Your people!
- Take out an insurance policy. It’s critical to ensure that every single person, down to the machinist or the accountant doing the day-to-day work, understands how their role personally impacts the results of the strategy. Your insurance policy is involving everyone in the why, what and how of the strategy. Engaging them in two-way conversation is a one-way street to positive outcomes.
This approach can appear, to some leaders, as an unnecessary cost and effort. “Just send an email.” “We have already talked about it at the all company meeting.” In fact, it is much more costly to the business when leaders don’t take this approach. Ask yourself, ‘what’s the cost to the business if we’re not successful in achieving this change’? In many cases it’s money, customers, jobs, relevance and survival.
The fact is, the leaders who have wrestled internal obstacles and have gone to the mat on this approach, have seen those efforts pay off in spades. Their companies have seen rapid and measurable results. In many cases, they went from functional leaders to a fast-track to the C-Suite.
Change is hard, it takes time and it doesn’t come easily. It requires commitment, focus and a process that gives every single person in the company a connection to the strategy. It requires organizations to empower managers with the capabilities and knowledge to coach those individuals to support that change, daily, weekly and monthly. Most important, it requires leaders to get past their underestimation of the power of a front line.