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Published on November 27, 2017

Don’t lead change!

I consider myself a strategist and technocrat. In other words, I understand little about people. That’s probably why I haven’t been as successful a change leader I should’ve been.

A major change usually begins with an ongoing or anticipated change in the business environment. Therefore, the business has to change, too. A new strategy is created and communicated. Action plans are made, maybe even specific change plans. Change leaders and change sponsors are nominated. Steering groups are formed, KPIs defined, and reporting processes established. Incentive systems are changed.

Then nothing happens!

If you are a proper business leader, your changes are proactive. You created a strategy to thrive in the world of tomorrow. But your people work in the world of today. Even if you manage to communicate the future you envisioned the daily reality of your people is likely to be incompatible with your vision. They may not understand at all what you are talking about. If they do, it’s still unreasonable to expect that they’d readily understand what your vision means for them today. In the worst case, they may just understand they need to be afraid of the future.

Great organizations have been programmed to sustain and optimize their greatness. They have not been programmed to re-invent it. If you have a great company with a still solid business, a strong culture, great marketing, and great past achievements your change efforts are, practically speaking, doomed. By the way, did you know that more than half of the greatest companies of 1990s do not exist anymore?

People don’t resist change. They just don’t understand the change the way you do. They want to engage in the change. They just don’t yet know how. If you fail to show how, they’ll start to withdraw because it seems the change wasn’t that important for you, after all.

Stop leading change. Start leading engagement. If you get people doing and talking they’ll eventually start thinking, feeling, and believing. But they don’t necessarily do and talk the way you wanted. Your great, linear change plan will go astray. People will take their own routes. They will go to wrong direction – and back. It is not going to be an efficient and controlled process. Things will never happen the way you planned. But if you succeed in engagement things will eventually happen.