I recently read Change-Friendly Leadership by Dean Rodger Duncan (Maxwell Stone Publishing, 2012). Change management is a concept that I keep coming back to because change is a constant in the workplace. Thinking back over the past few years, my workplace has experienced several major changes including a move to a new office, a change in senior management, some organizational restructuring, the introduction of several new electronic systems (both new software and new versions/releases), and a string of new procedures and projects. We have barely been able to complete one change project before starting another. This rapid succession of changes isn’t unusual…it is becoming the norm for many different types of work places.
Many of the concepts discussed in Duncan’s book will be familiar to anyone who has studied change management. For example, he provides a discussion of resistance and provides steps for facilitating change. Two points in his work struck me as particularly noteworthy.
The first was his emphasis on viewing change as an organic process rather than a linear sequence (Duncan, 2012, p. 20). My experiences of change have led me to believe that a change process needs to include room for trial and error or piloting. Piloting or testing change initiatives should result in feedback that may end up altering a change project in significant ways. If your pilots don’t reveal any information that changes the way that you think then you might not have run a very good pilot. If your pilot reveals significant problems, you need to have the ability to revise your plan accordingly. Moving forward with a change without addressing what you learned in the pilot is just asking for trouble.
The second point that stood out for me in this book was the significance that Duncan placed on authentic leadership in change management. He described authentic leadership as being a product of both honesty and clarity. Honesty involved “putting the needs of others ahead of your own…communicating information, both positive and negative… [and welcoming] viewpoints different from yours” (Duncan, 2012, p. 39). Clarity in authentic leadership involved explicitly articulating your values (“what you stand for, and what you will not stand for” (Duncan, 2012, p. 39) and using those values to chart and correct your organization’s course. Authentic leadership was a key ingredient in employee engagement which is essential in making and managing change in an organization.
These two aspects of change management are highly complementary. Authentic leaders are open to listening to their employees and taking their ideas into consideration. Being open to new ideas means that you will often have to revisit your original plans. These revisions may make you feel that your change projects aren’t moving forward, but they may be vitally important in engaging others and helping to build a culture that will support not only your current change project but a value of innovation and change that will support future initiatives.
Featured image by Robert Couse-Baker