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10 Essential Principles of Leading Successful Change

Leading business change is not easy. But with the right team and right method, your change can be sustainable and impactful and maintain productivity while it’s happening. Here’s how:

  • Create a consensus. When you know your business is changing, begin creating a concise vision of the future state and the reason why the organization needs to make this change. This common understanding of why the change needs to happen links the vision of the future, the core values of the company, and the mission of the organization.

  • Develop a clear plan. Creating a strategy for change moves the organization from simply having a vision of the future to having a plan for how the organization will get there. Making a change strategy includes creating objectives and goals that are long-term focused on financial performance, people management and employee retention, customer satisfaction, and robust operations.

  • Engage executive sponsorship. Grassroots change can happen. It just takes much longer. Leadership from the top puts the seal of approval on the change and can help align change initiatives to the broader mission of the company. When executives participate in change, they build a coalition of other leaders in the organization for employees to rally behind.

  • Build a powerful change team. Building a powerful change team isn’t just about getting a bunch of superstars in the room and giving them the authority to change the organization. It involves recruiting people who work well together, who have extraordinary communication and conflict-resolution skills, and who will actively engage other people.

  • Define change-management roles clearly. A powerful change team works together to make things happen because the members have clear roles and responsibilities on the project. Just like a pit crew on the racetrack, change-team members all have their own responsibilities and trust that other team members are doing their job.

  • Remove critical barriers to change. Managing the barriers to change is a fine balancing act between purely moving ahead and moving ahead while cultivating relationships to make the change last. Just blowing past barriers because a leader has the power in the organization to do so may get the change to the finish line faster, but this approach is rarely sustainable. Building agreements on how to remove obstacles takes time, but the investment will pay off with a change everyone can agree with and support in the long term.

  • Manage employee resistance. People resist new ways because they fear losing status, power, or even their jobs. To counter this resistance, keep everyone informed about what is happening, how they will be involved, and where they should go if they need more information.

  • Create and use communication plans. For your change to succeed, you must communicate continuously. Organizations with a high degree of trust and communication between decision makers and other workers minimize productivity loss during the transition from old to new. Keep employees informed about changes that will be happening before they happen. Clear, succinct messages will be understood. Honest messages will be believed.

  • Build competencies through training and educational programs. A natural productivity loss is associated with all complex changes because of the learning curve required to move from old to new. Building competencies (through training, mentoring, and so on) from the beginning of the project helps to lessen the significance of the productivity loss.

  • Anchor the change. Anchoring the change involves celebrating successes, whether they be milestones or the completion of the change. Throughout the change process, to maintain focus and check your direction, take time to talk and document what is going well and why. And then properly acknowledge the completed change in various ways, from public celebrations to individual verbal acknowledgment to cash rewards for performance.

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