How can I provide world-class change leadership?

by Sam on May 17, 2011

When he claimed that only death and taxes are unavoidable, Ben Franklin overlooked the most certain inevitability of all–change! What’s more, he never lived to see the speed of change that you lead others through.

The actions described below embody 16 best practices for bringing about successful transformation in the workplace. Apply them profitably to any source of change, whether related to technological revolutions, process improvement, organizational reordering, workforce transformations, customer demands, or external/internal crises.

As you review these practices consider the last time that you, or others, engineered a major change in your company. To what degree did you, or they, apply these ideas to that change? Use this scale to indicate your belief that each practice was indeed applied.

5 : Strongly agree    4 : Agree    3 : Slightly agree

2 : Slightly disagree    1 : Disagree    0 : Strongly disagree


1. Ensured that the change sought to advance one or more of the strategic priorities that had been previously chosen to achieve our bottom-line outcomes.

2. Shared the vision for the change. Made certain that those who needed to support the change “saw” the new tomorrow we intended to create as clearly as we did.

3. Had built into the culture of the group the need to keep getting better in order to thrive in a fast-paced, ever-improving, increasingly-demanding environment.

4. Connected employees well to customers and to other outside and inside forces that typically signal the need to change so that when the change was announced it would not surprise them.

5. Involved upfront in the planning for the change those who would be called upon to embrace it.

6. Established a powerful guiding coalition to head the process. Influential and key company members were at the lead.

7. Explained the change fully and honestly to those who were to implement the change so that they knew exactly how they would be affected. Provided a detailed schedule and action plan along with assigned accountabilities.

8. Anticipated the threat that those who experienced the change would feel, the danger they would sense, and the losses they might fear.

9. Encouraged those who experienced the change to express their fears. Listened and provided honest information to overcome their concerns.

10. Described the advantages of the change to those asked to accept it. Built into the change as many direct benefits for them as possible.

11. Demonstrated management’s commitment by giving those who implemented the change the resources they needed in terms of training, information, authority, access, staff, materials, and encouragement.

12. Aligned other processes with the change effort so that participants had the bandwidth to contribute, would not suffer harm, and thus were not forced to choose between going along with the program and their self-interests.

13. Walked the talk. Management did at least as much as others were asked to do, including making any of the sacrifices involved.

14. Created opportunities for short-term wins. Advertised these wins widely and celebrated them.

15. Remained open to formative feedback and to ideas for improvements throughout implementation¾including the possibility that the change might need to be significantly altered or even rescinded.

16. Debriefed the entire implementation process once the change was in place. Used the “lessons learned” to improve the future management of change.

Breakthrough! The items above differ in their relevance for the situation you evaluated; therefore, the total score you achieved is less meaningful than key individual ratings. The essential questions are these. Which change leadership practices applicable to your situation scored high (4-5) and which scored low (0-1)? Do these scores help you to understand why the change was as successful as it was? And, will you adopt this 16-point checklist for the next time you find yourself in the driver’s seat?

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