Leading change in an uncertain world

Leading change is a part of strategic planning. In one way, strategic planning is like all other types of planning. It helps managers to expect change. They may then be better able to respond to it.

The IT manager may have a three-year plan to deal with aging equipment. They will do this with an eye on technology trends.

Other managers will plan changes in the product range. They will look at product life cycles and market changes in the market place.

So it is with corporate strategic planning. Top managers will plan for major changes affecting the organization as a whole. They will look out a few years.

Where are we in the strategic planning process?

After deciding the corporate strategic plan, managers execute them. This does not happen by itself. Without change leadership, plans can stall or go off the rails.

The strategic planning process should involve many people. They will be more ready for change. The participants should keep those not involved in touch. Do not underestimate the need for managing the organizational changes.

Leading change means planning for change

Are you responsible for managing change? You may enjoy reading about how others do it.

It is a cliché to say that today we face ever-accelerating change. We may resist change. We can prepare for change. So can organizations.

Strategic planning is all about helping organizations to change. You may not be having a major change of strategy. It is still valuable to prepare for changing demands.

Organizations can learn to be more change ready

Organizations must be ready, willing, and able to change.

A book by Lawler and Worley Built to Change: How to Achieve Sustained Organizational Effectiveness gives insight and advice on leading change.

Managers have a role in enabling and leading processes of change.

Lawler and Worley show that we can design organizations that are more adaptable.

The design of most enterprises aims for stability, not for flexibility. When you try to bring about change, you hit this inbuilt stability. Many change efforts come unstuck. Building in change-ability is good insurance against this resistance.

They propose the Built to Change (B2Change) model. Central to this is knowledge of the organisation's identity. This includes a stable set of core values, behaviors, and beliefs. Centred on this identity are three key areas of practice -

  • Strategy making
  • Organization designing and
  • Value creating

For an outline of the approach, see Agility and Organization Design: A Diagnostic Framework.

B2Change organisations make it a habit to think of many scenarios for the future. They rehearse varied responses to them.

Chapters on each of the major areas area set out details on what to do.

The practices of agile organizations

For example, Lawler and Worley urge changing job descriptions. They suggest moving from job descriptions for fixed roles to person descriptions. These focus on practices that a person needs to be ready for unpredictable demands. This could also include people being ready to assume responsibility for leading change. In conventional job descriptions, this may not be covered for most employees.

Of course, this may call for novel approaches to rewards and pay. We should not only acknowledge knowledge and skill. We should also reward contribution to work unit and enterprise performance. This needs appropriate strategy-linked performance metrics.

Study Lawler and Worley’s Built to Change: How to Achieve Sustained Organizational Effectiveness. It may help you to improve your abilities in change management.

For more information, see the Center for Effective Organizations (CEO).

Organizations that embed change capability will execute planned effect planned change well. They are also more able to respond to the unexpected.

Return from Leading Change to Strategic Management Process.

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