Analyzing your stakeholders, communicating well, and ensuring people are trained and ready are just common sense if you are responsible for implementing a project for your organization. Anyone should be able to do it. Why then is lack of change leadership pointed to so often as a reason for not reaching the return on investment for projects?
Change Leadership is a Discipline
We wouldn’t dream of not following a defined approach for workflow development, system design, technical architecture, or training. So why would we leave change leadership to chance? It’s natural to think of the change activities as basic leadership. And to a great extent, they are. How often though do people naturally exhibit great leadership skills? Especially in the high-stress environment of a large change initiative.
Another reason change leadership is not usually thought of formally is the misinterpretation that influencing scores of people to change their mind-set and behavior is somehow “soft” vs. the real work of the project.
What we inherently know though is that all the great technical work being done perfectly doesn’t ensure that the change will be implemented successfully. This brings us to the third reason change leadership isn’t an official activity: it’s hard to define and it’s hard work that must be done by busy people.
A big misconception is that change leadership is a “bolt on” component separate from project management activities. This leads to the conclusion that change leadership, since it involves people, is the domain of Human Resources. Calling in Human Resources folks, disconnected from the business and the project, has virtually no chance of success. It’s easy to delegate this important but time-consuming function but from our experience this just isn’t a viable alternative.
Change leadership activities must be tightly integrated with the other tasks of the project. Change activities take place as the more traditional work of the project is being done. And, this change activity is performed by those same project resources.
So, how do you integrate solid change leadership within your organization? First, education is necessary to identify the nuances of change leadership techniques and to begin to see the integration of these techniques within your project management methodology (see Change Leadership Focus). Second, it’s necessary to exercise these techniques in a practical way within existing projects.
Change leadership is truly an art. The real-life examples allow you to apply the learning in a practical way. When we provide this education and advisory service for our clients we find that virtually everyone associated with a project from senior leadership to project administrators are touched in some way with new and more effective approaches to their jobs. Contact our office to strategize how you can eliminate the risk of leaving change leadership to chance and make change leadership a discipline for your organization.
As a change leader, do you specifically focus on change leadership or does it just happen?