Fatal Errors for Change

The change accelerators help us avoid some pretty common errors in change management.

Neglecting Employees’ Individual Interests

It is not enough to present a compelling case for change. Leaders can explain how the specified changes are in the company’s interests and the collective interests of all employees but for individuals to change their behavior, it must be in their individual interests to do so. There are always some costs to employees in any change program, but the behaviors required for change can still be in their individual interests if there are benefits that, on balance, make it rational to get with the program. It’s up to leadership to understand these cost-benefit analyses and tip the scales as needed to make active support of the collective change an individually winning strategy.

This is one the places having a volunteer army is vital. That army will help ensure the individual and well as the collective interests are engaged.

Under-engaging the Extended Leadership Team

It is crucial to get the extended leadership team seriously engaged in cultural transformation. Much of the coalition of change will be drawn from their numbers. What counts as an extended leadership team is different depending on the organization, but as a rule of thumb go to the top and draw a circle down to 3 levels below.

By drawing from the extended leadership team as the guiding coalition, you give them a personal stake in the outcome. Give the extended leadership team members a voice earlier on in the program and they will feel a greater sense of ownership and will contribute more readily. Their involvement should begin as early as the design stage to leverage their knowledge of the workforce and the situation on the ground. Giving them the opportunity for meaningful input will make them feel included in the program and enthusiastic about it, and will also help keep the program free of design flaws.

Allocating “Set-and-Forget” Targets

The hands-off, set-and-forget model for allocating targets has three major shortcomings:

  • If senior management neglects to inspire ambitions, to monitor progress and make proper course corrections, and to show sufficient engagement, then the initiative leaders will have little reason to go the extra mile. Presented with an annual target, they will likely focus on measures that aim simply to meet it – typically, shortsighted measures such as reducing deviations per batch or CAPA cycle time. After all, such measures are far easier to implement, and far less threatening to the delivery of day-to-day business results, than broad long-term measures such as seeking sustainable savings through increased productivity. Taking the simpler path is the rational choice when you understandably want to minimize disruption. Unfortunately, the short-tern measures don’t change culture fundamentally or sustainably. Sooner or later they are discontinued, and when that happens, the benefits evaporate.
  • The initiative leaders will likely seek solutions specific to their own silos rather than pursue opportunities that might contribute to collective, cross-department success. Those promising opportunities remain undiscovered since individual departments left to their own devices have no particular incentive to look beyond their silos. They might even have a disincentive to do so, because they may rightly worry that they wouldn’t get their fair share of credit for the results or that it would be a futile mission and damaging to their prospects.
  • The hands-off model prevents lead-indicator metrics, timely interventions, and course correction. If senior leaders have little visibility into a departmental initiative, they cannot easily realize that things are going off the hands-off model militates against lead-indicator metrics, timely interventions, and course correction. If senior leaders have little visibility into a departmental initiative, they cannot easily realize that things are going off track through the pursuit of unsustainable, short-term measures – until it is too late to do anything about it.
Visualized by Rose Fastus

Storytelling and Leaders

As leaders a big part of our work is ensuring the know-why – fostering and sharing an understanding of work culture and values. This is a continuing, long-term co-creative process that does not happen overnight. An important part of this work is shaping and sharing stories, using the past as a shaper of the future to give meaning to events. As stories are told in the present, they become a partner in shaping the future.

To successfully change, it is important to understand the past as well as dream for the future. Storytelling as a method and tool has real power to foster dialogue, reveal culture and create a shared vision:

  • Storytelling makes complex situations and phenomena accessible and provides details that can be used to build action plans for change and improvement.
  • Stories reveal values and principles embedded in a culture that are often hidden from the naked eye.
  • Stories make visible driving forces for change that are not revealed when direct questions are asked.
  • Stories provides a platform for understanding different perspectives. It breaks down barriers and builds bridges of trust.
  • Stories highlight turning points that can be used to facilitate innovation and change.

Through storytelling and dialog, we strengthen structure, identity and culture. It is how we tell our story.

Bring Playfulness to Your Work

Playfulness can soften difficult decisions, conversations and actions that require courage. Having the ability to bring a level of lightheartedness to even the most difficult situations can take the edge of circumstances that might otherwise scare you. Playfulness has the incredible power to disarm even the darkest of circumstances.

It invites courage to play.

Play is a fundamental part of the human experience. We should never forget to bring it to our work. A playful attitude keeps your mind curious. It makes us better problem-solvers.

Play involves an enthusiastic and in-the-moment attitude. When we play, we detach from outside stressors and become completely absorbed in the activity. Play is the ultimate mindfulness.

Do not let play be the first thing that gets lost when stress overrides our lives.

Playfulness is a subtle art. It is bordered by silliness on one side and rudeness on the other side. Be careful to ensure you never are in either of those territories. Men, this is especially critical to us as our culture lets too many sexist, racist and homophobic attitudes slide as humor. Always remember that playfulness is not the same as being funny. I’m not a very funny person, I try to avoid making people laugh. what I strive to do is make people feel included in my curiosity and exploration.

Good playfulness should always connect, never divide.

Take your play seriously! But don’t take yourself too seriously. Point out your own flaws and imperfections in a humorous, confident way. Sincere self-deprecation can be powerful.

People will strive for your success when you show up with playful energy. Make the other person genuinely feel special and watch the magic happen. Playfulness is a gentle invitation for others to follow you if they want to.

Playfulness will reflect in your body language. This is very inviting, and a whole lot of what folks mean as charisma stems from this spark.

By practicing playfulness you will develop an attitude of irreverence where you are in touch with yourself and avoid negativity and drama.

So reflect and ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you approach life with more playfulness? What would happen if you were more playful in your daily life?
  • Where are you lacking playfulness?
  • Who is someone playful you admire? What makes them playful?
  • If you approached life in a more playful way, what brave decisions would you make?
  • How would you show up differently if you were to embrace playfulness?
  • How can you invite more play into your life?

Democratic Leadership Style

A building block of Quality culture is learning how to make decisions faster without impairing their quality. We do this by ensuring availability of the right knowledge so that the appropriate measures can be decided on and making the decision-making processes quicker.

Adopting a flexible but consistent approach to decision-making and giving people greater leeway creates the organizational framework for faster decision-making processes. In addition to creating the right framework, however, it is equally important for employees to have confidence in each other so that decisions are not only taken quickly but also implemented swiftly. Rather than merely seeing employees as resources, this requires management to value them as part of the community because of the competencies that they bring to the table. The underlying capability that makes this possible is a democratic leadership style.

Democratic leadership is a style where decision-making is decentralized and shared by all. This style of leadership proposes that decision-making should be shared by the leader and the group where criticisms and praises are objectively given and a feeling of responsibility is developed within the group. Leaders engage in dialogue that offers others the opportunity to use their initiative and make contributions. Once decisions are collectively taken, people are sure of what to do and how to do it with support from leaders to accomplish tasks successfully. It is the “Yes…but…and” style of leadership.

This style requires a high degree of effort in building organizational decision-making capabilities. You need to build a culture that ensures that everyone has an equal interest in an outcome and shared levels of expertise relative to decisions. But nothing provides better motivated employees.

For those keeping track on the leadership style bingo card, this requires mashing democratic and transformational leaders together (with a hefty flavoring of servant leadership). Just the democratic style is not enough, you need a few more aspects of a transformational leader to make it work.

Characteristics of a Democratic Leader

Idealized Influence means being the role model and being seen to be accountable to the culture. Part of this is doing Gemba walks as part of your standard work.

Inspirational Motivation means inspiring confidence, motivation and a sense of purpose. The leader must articulate a clear vision for the future, communicate expectations of the group and demonstrate a commitment to the goals that have been decided upon.

Through Intellectual Stimulation, the leader presents to the organization a number of challenging new ideas that are supposed to stimulate rethinking of new ways of doing things in the organization, thus seeking ideas, opinions and inputs from others to promote creativity, innovation and experimentation of new methods to replace the old ways. The leader articulates True North.

Decentralized decision-making around these new ways of doing are shared by all. Decisions are taken by both the leader and the group where criticisms and praises are objectively given and a feeling of responsibility is developed within the group, thus granting everyone the opportunity to use their initiative and make contributions. Decentralized decision-making ensures everyone empowered to take actions and are responsible for the implementation and effectiveness of these actions. This will drive adaptation and bring accountability.

Reading list

  • Arenas, F.J., Connelly, D.A. and Williams, M.D. (2018), Developing Your Full Range of Leadership, Air University Press, Maxwell AFB
  • Gastil, J. (1994), “A definition and illustration of democratic leadership”, Human Relations, Vol. 47 No. 8,pp. 953-975
  • Hayes, A.F. (2018), Introduction to Mediation, Moderation and Conditional Process Analysis, 2nd ed.,The Guilford Press, New York, N