Successful change takes planning

Last Wednesday, I drove to Springfield to deliver a presentation. The next day I drove to Shaker Heights to give the same presentation to another group of leaders. Each of these groups consisted of about 100 people.

Today, I am in Charleston, W.Va., for a third presentation on the same topic. All of these speaking engagements have been titled, “You Can’t Push a Pig into a Truck: Enabling Employees to Change.”

A good portion of my sessions are on change. I began these recent ones by asking the participants to identify a particular change with which they were struggling. The rest of the session was focused on planning for that change. In groups of six to eight people I asked them to write down three words that described their feelings about that change.

Predominately, they listed stress, fear and feelings of uncertainty. Occasionally they listed happy pictures for those change initiatives that they survived and learned from. The session participants were mostly feeling the stress and fear due to forces outside their control. We don’t all feel the same about change events. We tend to embrace change when we initiate it and are less positive when others impose it on us. Ray Kertzweil, a futurist who has a 30-year track record of accurate predictions, suggests that in the 21st Century alone, we will experience 20,000 years of progress. If he is even partially right, there will be a great deal of change on all of our plates.

The exercise of drawing pictures in groups allow my participants to have fun with the process and talk more openly about the change they and their employees are living or expect to live. The rest of the session involved designing a process for creating dialogue and commitment by all employees regarding change that is critical for the organization’s success.

We identified GAP behaviors, those behaviors that will be required by future change but are not demonstrated today. Next, discussions are facilitated about why the organization needs these new behaviors and how adopting them can help employees.

When change occurs organizational leaders have an ethical responsibility to provide learning opportunities for the employee. At this point in the session, we list the various ways we learn. When learning opportunities fit the learning style of the employee, they are most successful. Leaders are also responsible for providing feedback as to how well employees are accomplishing the GAP behaviors and finally rewards for successfully demonstrating the GAP behaviors are important to encourage further honing and maintenance of the GAP behaviors.

Change comes in all shapes and sizes. Most change is emotional and intimate for employees. Putting time into designing dialogue, practicing skills, and giving positive and constructive feedback along with appropriate rewards valued by employees are all important. Most leaders understand that without the ability to change with or in advance of the external environment, their success will be limited or they will cease to exist. However, it takes deliberate, time-consuming processes to make it all work.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.