Last Updated 24 Mar 2020

Learning to Lead Change

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Learning to Lead Change... “The simplest definition of leadership" says Peter Senge, of learning organisation fame, "is the ability to produce change. " Does your organisation need to build change leadership capability? There’s a big emphasis now on leadership, not just conventional management skills. One reason is a growing recognition that in times of change, when systems are unstable and futures are uncertain, it’s leaders we need - not managers.

When you boil it down, leadership itself is largely about leading people through change. Leaders are the key drivers of change. They play a critical role in preparing people for it, and then leading them through it. No matter what your specific job, managers everywhere now need to be more change-adept. Organisations nowadays expect people to step out of their functional role and handle a formidable array of changes as part of their daily work – often with little preparation for it.

In a word, we all need to become change leaders. Whether you introduce the change – a better procedure, a service-delivery improvement, redesigning work, merging work units, designing a new product line or introducing a new piece of technology – or whether it’s imposed on you, the ability to manage change and make it happen rapidly and smoothly is one of the keys to organisational vitality, renewal and success. And learning how to lead change is one of the critical skills that underscores successful implementation.

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To have the ability to: Identify when change is needed and constantly build their own and other’s capacity to learn, adapt and transform Translate change initiatives into working visions and strategies staff find comprehensible and want to sign onto Design down-to-earth workplace change and improvement strategies people can work with Communicate clearly about change in ways people can understand Reduce uncertainty and convert anxiety, denial and resistance into constructive change energy Build momentum, create commitment, get people into action mode then facilitate them through change Many managers overlook the need to develop change capabilities in themselves or in others. Their assumption often sounds like this: 'I’ve been managing this organisation for years – so I certainly know how to change it! ' What organisations frequently fail to see is that the skills to build change leadership capability are very different to those needed to manage a business in normal operational mode. Everyday management skills, sound as they may be, just don’t convert that easily into effective change leadership capabilities. New skills are needed but not many see this. Back to top

Key practice areas for enabling change… Here’s a list of key practice areas for enabling change… They inter-connect. Changes in one flow through to all the others... Learning to Lead Change: Put simply leadership is frequently about leading people through change. Leaders are key drivers of change and leadership learning should focus firmly on the critical role leaders play in preparing, and leading people through change in order to create change leaders – those with the capability to communicate clearly about change in ways people can understand, shape a vision they can sign onto, build momentum, create commitment, get people into action and then facilitate them through it.

Facilitating Change: is a role for both change leaders and teams. It involves being capable of leading team activities, adopting a facilitation role to lead change teams and shifting from mental models of ‘managing’, ‘organising’ or ‘controlling’ to being facilitators & direction-setters. Leveraging Culture: Very little changes unless the culture it’s happening in gets addressed - the habits, assumptions and shared mental models carried by yourself and others. This involves sensing the current culture, assessing how supportive or not this is for change outcomes you envisage and learning to leverage and work with the culture to get these change results.

Promoting Change Participation: Promote involvement in and responsibility for managing change processes. Our bias for participation is based on observation and experience that if you involve others in jointly determining what and how to change, it is more likely to be successful than imposed change. This involves working out ways to involve people – both participation inside your change team or target group and with stakeholders outside it. Building Change Capacity: What capacities do we need to build in order to change successfully? This includes individual skills, tools and disciplines you and your change team needs to develop change enabling capacity and the resources needed to support change – tangible and ‘in’.

It also involves building longer term change capability by embedding good practices in the work/learning habits of people impacted by changes. Systems Redesign: When things change, old work systems, processes and procedures need to change too. One reason change fails is a lack of know-how or refusal to change old work patterns, systems, structures and mental models that get in the way. At whatever level, change leaders constantly look for more innovative, efficient and flexible ways of re-organising work processes and procedures to meet ever-changing improvement challenges. All change leaders need to learn how to be systems redesigners. Change Leaders need Tools: Without tools, guiding ideas remain un-actioned.

Leaders need new tools and processes to make a positive contribution to these more flexible and fluid forms of learning if they are to use learning to change and respond more quickly to successive change challenges. Our leadership-learning emphasises being transparent about the tools we use and injecting specific learning tools into the change coaching/action learning process for people to try out and experiment with. Monitoring Change: This involves developing ways to tell whether real change and improvement has taken place; identifying indicators and processes to evaluate whether our change actions and processes have made a real difference and get back on-track if changes aren’t working.

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