What was once relevant may be irrelevant in six months. Technology changes, world events impact organizations, people change, it is inevitable. Throughout my career, being in Human Resources, I have witnessed and been a change agent for many large organizational changes. I have seen good, great, and disastrous changes. Many major changes are the result of new technology, new leadership, company structure (e.g. mergers or re-organizations).
One of my past leaders would ask at the end of each year “ what initiative are you planning for next year that is going to wow everyone”? I thought that was a strange question. My take on HR planning was always to look at where we are and what we need to get to a place that will remain relevant or be agile to adapt to future needs. I never thought of starting projects just to create excitement about the HR function. I was part of a leadership team that spent years trying to implement dozens of changes and projects, most were quite unsuccessful. Although we used terminology such as mission, vision, strategy, etc., none of this was actually part of a true thought-out and planned strategy. The main reason these change initiatives failed was that change was being pushed on the staff and managers for the sake of change and not for the sake of true organizational development and strategizing. Communication was poor, work was dictated, and our plans and decisions were overruled all the time. This lack of empowerment as well as mass confusion created a very dysfunctional environment.
What I learned from this is that not everyone is wired to be a successful change leader. To be an effective change leader, you must have certain traits and demonstrate the right behaviours in order to truly be successful. These are:
Have a clear Vision of what the future state will look like
Have the ability to gain buy-in and create Collaboration
Have excellent Communication Skills (listen, inform, negotiate, influence)
Have strong Interpersonal Skills (empathize, engage, inspire)
Be a strong Motivator (keep the momentum going)
Big Adaptable (keep eye on the overall goal while dealing with constant changes while ensuring progress is not stalled
Even if a leader has all of these traits, there is always the need for careful planning and monitoring to ensure progress continues throughout the initiative and keeps as close to the project plan as possible. Frequent communication in all fronts, using different formats is one of the key factors to ensuring success. While all of this may seem easy, sometimes it is too much for someone with a full load to take on alone. This is why many changes that are co-championed with an External Consultant or Change Specialist can make a big difference in the overall change initiative. Having an expert to guide a leader through the process can be the greatest gift to an organizational change!