Leading Change is one of the most challenging tasks of top leaders.
You may have memorized Kotter’s eight steps and have a big guiding coalition ready to help you out, but there are still plenty of pitfalls out there. Here are six of them to watch out for as you Lead Change:*
1. Cautious Management Culture. Peter Drucker is attributed with the quote “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast.” If there really is an “urgency” for the change you are attempting to lead then you cannot be cautious. You need to quickly get a 100% commitment from your top leaders that they are on board and ready to GO.
2. Business-as-Usual Management Process. Your regular management processes are designed for the current way of doing things and are fully occupied with that work. Don’t try to add the new transformation effort to these processes. They are not designed for it. Create a new, sleek team that is focused solely on the change you are leading.
3. Initiative Gridlock. You can only change so much so fast! Keep your change to three – maybe four – initiatives. This allows you to focus your time and resources on what is really important. It is also easier to communicate just a few initiatives.
4. Recalcitrant Executives. Keep an eye on your top leaders and hold everyone accountable for their agreements. This is always important, but crucial in rapid change mode. Watch especially for passive aggressive behaviors that are slowing things down. Confront people quickly who you think are not really on board. This is not the time to avoid conflict.
5. Disengaged Employees. Once top leaders are fully engaged then they, in turn, need to be sure to hold their direct reports accountable. This is one of the key reasons that their role modeling is so important. It is also why recruiting “rank & file” people onto the “guiding coalition” early on is important. Make sure they have input on the change early on so that when it comes time to implement they have a stake in the change.
6. Loss of Focus During Execution. This is the role of the top team – and especially the CEO. There will always be a “challenge of the day” that can take attention away from the change you are leading. Beware of these distractions. And watch out for fatigue that will inevitably set in.
Organizations that cannot change and, when needed, change quickly run the risk of going out of business or becoming irrelevant. Watch for these pitfalls as you work to advance your efforts to make even more of a Mission Impact.
*Based on “Accelerating Corporate Transformations (Don’t Lose Your Nerve!),” by Robert H. Miles, Harvard Business Review, January – February 2010, pp. 69 – 75.