Today’s companies have no choice but to change. The world is moving and shifting fast, and executives know it. The history of change management teaches us that a simple recipe does not work. Change remains very difficult. Our experience with clients has helped us identify themes and patterns, tools and models that help leaders and organizations to change their culture. But the fact remains: anyone touting a quick-fix transformation formula doesn’t know what he’s up against.
Organizational change leadership isn’t simple because:
- Bigger minds are needed to keep pace with rapidly changing reality. Reality is leaping ahead of our collective development. We need new thinking and new ways of working together in order to keep up. Most organizations are behind in developing what they need to move up the hierarchy of culture. It takes an even greater stretch to thrive in the face of change.
- Change requires new mindsets, not just new skills. Organizations have become savvy developers of individual leader competencies. In doing so, they have over-relied on the human resource function to manage change through individual skill development. Executives have not considered the need to advance both individual and collective leadership mindsets.
- Hidden assumptions and beliefs must be unearthed. Unexamined beliefs control an organization and prevent any meaningful change. Years of valuing hierarchy, status, authority and control — even if unstated — can lead to assumptions and behaviors that are out of date, unnecessary, unhelpful, and at odds with stated goals and strategic direction.
- Organizational change requires leaders to change. Change the culture — change yourself. That’s the new reality. Senior executives who move the needle toward organizational transformation also experience significant personal transformation. That commitment to personal change is a fundamental part of their readiness to take on the leadership and management challenges of change for a sustainable future.
- It takes a new kind of hard work. Stop calling them “soft” skills. Developing new beliefs and mindsets is hard, and the leadership practices they generate will permanently alter the way leadership is experienced and accomplished. Developing a new mindset is much harder than managing spreadsheets and the next restructuring. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
What obstacles stand in the way of change for your organization?
Adapted from the white paper Transforming Your Organization by John B. McGuire, Charles J. Palus, William Pasmore and Gary B. Rhodes