Change management is in full-force across all industries, yet many leaders are unprepared to act upon and operationalize the requirements for change to avoid business disruption. For many organizations, preparedness begins at the top and this means that leadership – across all levels – must have absolute clarity in purpose and focus; there also must be alignment in strategic philosophy and resolution goals.
Unfortunately, many organizations are slow to change as the internal politics makes it difficult to reach consensus across all levels of leadership – even when the necessity for change is urgent. This is why many companies unknowingly lose momentum as they fail to change fast enough -- allowing the marketplace and competitors to pass them by. The result: valuable time is misspent, resources applied and money invested without the required outcomes to stay competitive, keep clients satisfied and employees engaged.
Having led several change management strategies throughout my career, it is imperative that an organization’s leaders have clarity and are in alignment with their responses to the following questions (as a result of their change management efforts):
• What does success look like operationally and financially – and how does this benefit our employees and customers?
• What is our mission trying to solve for the industry we serve and how can we improve our ability to accomplish more than in the past – so that the organization can remain competitive, become more profitable and/or achieve market leadership?
• What resources and relationships are mandatory to accomplish our goals, achieve sustainable success and be significant in our industry?
It’s easy for leaders to say that they need to improve and invest in doing things better (either because the marketplace is telling them to or because they need to be proactive before circumstances force their hand). The reality is that without strategy, change is merely substitution – not evolution. Simply put, you can have an idea, but without the right strategy and execution of the idea, very little if any progress will be made. When leaders fall into this trap, they are being irresponsible and their credibility suffers, their intentions come into question, and doubt begins to loom about their capabilities and know-how.
So what does clarity and alignment really mean?
Here is one example: When leadership can break down the silos across functional/departmental areas in order to stimulate and operationalize diversity of thought. Through the cross-pollination of ideas and ideals the organization can be more collaborative and inspire innovative teams to solve problems and identify opportunities together – regardless of hierarchy or rank.
The clarity this example illustrates is that of a teamwork mentality, and without it nothing else matters. This level of clarity breeds the expectation from every employee that only those willing to be a team player belong in the organization and fit the culture that is being created. You can challenge each other and put your ideals to the test together– but acting in isolation with no respect for the team is not acceptable.
If you think about your own organization through this example, is everyone clear about the organization’s workplace culture? Do they have the mindset and attitude that is expected from each employee and its leaders in support of its mission? Many organizations lack clarity because there is misalignment within leadership that makes it difficult to clearly define expectations for all involved. This is why operational silos exist -- forcing change management upon organizations and its employees.
It’s impossible to have clarity and alignment when the leadership teams within a company represent disjointed, disparate parts – rather than a convergence of intelligence and know-how that is in sync and strongly interconnected.
Change management is a challenge when leaders across the organization are not willing to share their intellectual capital for the betterment of a healthier whole. In order words, leaders hold-on to the intelligence that has defined their success – perhaps indicating a hidden agenda – rather than share their success and insights with others to strengthen the intellectual capital foothold of the organization – so that it can more effectively grow and compete.
It is impossible to create an environment of clarity and alignment when transparency is missing from its leadership. How can an organization be innovative and more competitive in the marketplace when protecting hidden agendas takes precedence over building momentum for the collective good in support of the mission?
This has historically been the case in the physician-led healthcare industry where leadership must now shift from a cottage industry to big business. Below is an example that illustrates the intellectual capital requirements for a medical institution seeking to best serve the growing number of Hispanic patients -- accelerated even more by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
It is shocking to most medical institution executives that I’ve talked with that this amount of intellectual capital already exists – but not when you consider that historically there has not existed any clarity around the importance and benefits of serving Hispanic patients. As such, there has not existed any alignment amongst leaders within each major functional/departmental area. This is why the healthcare industry is not in a position to lead change management efforts to best serve the demographic shift – during a time when the demand for it is at an all-time high.
The aforementioned example explains why many organizations have difficulty aligning their internal brand (the perceived workplace environment) with their external brand (what customers expect from their products and/or services). When the realities of both are not in alignment, it makes it difficult to sustain any real momentum and a positive reputation that matters to employees and clients.
This is why leaders must have clarity in purpose and focus and an alignment of strategic philosophy and resolution goals for their change management objectives. There must be a common language that guides execution, monitors progress and allows for course correction along the way. There must be a culture where leaders are willing to share all of their intellectual capital and everyone throughout the organization values teamwork and the urgency of breaking down silos. Above all, there must be a well thought-out, clearly defined and communicated strategy behind any change management effort – that’s where you can begin to show real leadership clarity and alignment.
Follow-me on Twitter @GlennLlopis.