Good leaders apply effective change management strategies | Daily News
Leading your flock into greener pastures – Part 30

Good leaders apply effective change management strategies

Change is an inevitable, essential part of the modern world. Change prevents stagnation, fosters creative solutions, and propels innovation. With change comes challenges: to survive and prosper, organizations need to adapt to shifting market dynamics, volatility in the public arena, disruptions brought on by new technologies, and many more.

That is why you need to engage members of your team in continuously looking for ways to improve all aspects of how the team is performing. Remember that, through this approach, you and they:

(1) Become used to making changes and also more receptive to change happening in your organisation, (2) Have pride in the improvements you’re all making, (3) Build a stronger sense of identity and teamwork through working better together. (4) Seek to identify strengths, reinforce good practice and recognise the contributions and achievements of individuals and your whole team.

What’s working poorly?

Ask people to:

(1) Describe what frustrates and/or annoys them in doing their work. (2) Look for shortfalls regarding the targets and objectives that the team are expected to achieve, (3) Identify where or how processes and systems are malfunctioning. (4) Suggest actions to overcome the problems they identify.

What if we could improve by, say 10 per cent?

Encourage team members to question and challenge current ways of working, and to think differently and even change the paradigms that constrain their views about what the team’s capable of achieving.

Your team is capable of achieving significant improvements in performance if together you strive continuously to identify opportunities and solve problems, and in this way deliver small step-by-step improvements.

Implementing decisions that comes from top

Leaders at all levels of organisations from the Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer to the Team Leader or Supervisor occasionally have to implement decisions that aren’t their own. Managing Directors of many family- and public-owned businesses experience dilemmas when handling the whims of their Chairman, and Chief Executive Officers of public sector organisations have to cope with political decisions and changes in policy. So, you may as well get used to handling the dilemmas caused by having to implement changes as a result of someone else’s decision!

Behave like a change agent

We have talked about it earlier. Ask your manager questions to find out: (1) The reasons for the change, including the benefits of the change and the consequences of not making the change: (2) Why the change has to be made now rather than at another time, because members of your team are likely to ask you: (3) How much influence or control you have about how the change is to be introduced.

Represent your team to your manager by conveying their suggestions, hopes and aspirations, concerns and fears about the proposed change.

Attempt to address the issues raised by members of your team with your manager rather than just passing the matters over to her.

Avoid having ‘sloppy shoulders’ and distancing yourself from someone else’s decision to make a change when you’re introducing the change to your team. Don’t use phrases such as: ‘I’m only doing what I’ve been told!’ ‘Don’t shoot me I’m only the messenger!’ ‘It’s not my fault!’

More positive alternative phrases to use are: ‘We have something we must work on.’ ‘How can we address this most effectively?’ ‘We have a problem to solve.’

You now have the basis for getting everyone engaged, rather than fuelling resentment.

Leading change you disagree with

Some years ago, a manager passed onto his leader a useful piece of wisdom: when introducing changes into the workplace, ‘you can’t always have the money and the applause’.

As a leader, you’re going to experience occasions when you have to do what’s right for the business or organisation, even though you and your staff won’t like what you have to do. You’re sometimes going to need to implement changes that adversely affect you and/or members of your team.

You’re also going to be faced with implementing changes that you disagree with. Doing so is one of those situations when you need courage and expertise to discuss things with your boss to get to a position that is acceptable when explained to you, or you at least understand why you have to do it.

Behave like a change agent when introducing changes with which you disagree, and also do the following:

(1) Be willing to challenge a decision if you really believe that the decision is going to affect adversely the productivity of your whole organisation, as opposed to just the members of your team. (2) Propose an alternative solution or course of action highlighting the benefits justified by facts and evidence, and any disadvantages of your proposal to demonstrate that you’ve been objective in your analysis of the situation. (3) Support decisions that are right for the organisation and most employees. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made because they’re right for the overall organisation even though the decisions may adversely affect some employees:

Ask your manager to help you to support members of your team to cope with changes that adversely affect them. Support activities may include: Training and development to learn new skills: Clarifying new roles and responsibilities; Counselling to work through personal dilemmas.

You have a massive influence on how people in your team react to a change through how you react to the change: team members are always watching you and often take a lead from you in how they respond to a change being introduced into the workplace.

Transforming Culture

In my experience, most senior managers want changes in structures, systems, processes, procedures and so on to happen quickly, so that the benefits of the change to the organisation can be obtained as soon as possible. Although such changes can be achieved relatively quickly, transformations in culture may take much longer, especially if relatively large numbers of employees are involved.


Some Managers often describe the culture of an organisation as ‘the way we do things around here’. I’m sure that you can see how such an attitude can inhibit the implementation of change. I prefer to be more precise in describing culture, but before reading my description of culture take a few moments to think about what culture means to you.

Use the following questions as prompts:

(1) What words would you use to describe the culture of the organisation that you currently work for? (2) What are the main differences in the cultures of organisations that you’ve worked in and/or schools you attended? (3) What is different about the culture of your country compared to the national cultures of other countries? (4) How would you describe the notion of ‘culture’ to a work colleague?

Look out for icebergs

If you ever go sailing in the North Atlantic Ocean, you need to look out for icebergs if you want to survive. You do likewise when attempting to transform the culture of your own team, a wider work group or even a whole organisation! Organisational change specialists often use the metaphor of an iceberg to convey the crucial aspects of culture effectively:

You can see only the tip of a culture (like the visible tip of an iceberg): people’s behaviour and the effects of their behaviour, such as the tidiness of the workplace.

You can’t see the majority of aspects of a culture: the attitudes, values and beliefs of people.

You may find that transforming a culture is extremely difficult. The culture of an organisation is solid and well-formed, just like the frozen structure of an iceberg, and the culture of a work group or organisation can seem similarly frozen in place.

Let us work out a definition of a work culture: culture is the prevailing attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours of a group, department and/ or whole organisation that have a significant effect on the performance of that particular group behaviours, attitudes, values, beliefs.

The aspect of culture that you can see towards someone or something what people value or deem to be important what people see as being true or false

Be careful about trying to push through changes in work systems and so on too quickly because you may hit an iceberg: the ‘out of sight’ aspects of the culture that cause members of the group to passively or actively resist the change.

Diving deep to uncover culture

If you want members of the group to embrace a change in a work system, process or so on you’ve no option but to ‘dive deep’ to uncover the culture of a work group. Otherwise you won’t understand the issues or factors that have to be worked through to gain the group’s commitment to embrace the change.

To complete the next exercise, reflect on your experiences of changes that have been introduced into places where you’ve worked. This process helps you to gain practical insights into the need to uncover culture when planning to introduce your own changes into the workplace.

Divide the pages of a notebook into 3 columns. In the first column, write a brief description of a situation in which a change was introduced into the workplace and you and/or your work colleagues actively accepted the change. In second column write your reasons may include a description of how you (felt you) were treated during the change. In the third column, describe any actions that management took that contributed to you and/or your work colleagues accepting the change.

The contents of the second column are likely to describe things that are important to people about their work; what they value and, perhaps, believe. The contents of the last column are likely to contain examples of good and bad management practice regarding introducing changes into the workplace.

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with long experience in senior business management. Presently he is a business consultant, freelance newspaper columnist and a writer.)

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