Are You Equipped to Manage Transformational Change?

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Pattern

It’s not a big secret that most people are averse to change, since it’s more comfortable to retain the status quo—even if it’s not working. This creates a significant challenge for today’s executives and family business leaders, especially those with the vision to make transformational changes; having great new ideas is one thing, but understanding how to get buy-in from those who must implement them is another.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is considered a visionary leader, and he recently announced a radical change to the way the company operates. This year, following the example of fashion brands that have haute couture and mass-market lines, Starbucks will start opening luxury Reserve stores where customers can get a more rarefied and expensive assortment of coffee.

It’s an interesting concept, but like anything else that’s new, the employees who will roll it out must embrace the change or it’s likely to have a quick and painful death. What is the best way to ensure that happens? As a business performance coach, I’ve determined the following four conditions must be met:

  • A Compelling Story. Employees must see the point of change.
  • Role Modeling. Employees must see colleagues they admire modeling the desired behavior.
  • Reinforcement Systems. Surrounding structures, systems, processes and incentives must be in tune with the change.
  • Required Skills. Employees must have the skills to do what is required of them as a result of the change.

The Starbucks example is certainly transformational, but who’s to say what might fall under that heading at other companies? It could be anything from using a new software program and dealing with a total rebrand to implementing minor or major organizational restructuring. Regardless, the conditions noted above are still applicable.

Also imperative to leading employees through change—especially transformational change—is creating an engaged work culture that is open to new ideas. In my experience as a business performance coach, I’ve discovered there are three keys to doing that: confirm, assess and communicate. It’s critical not to make assumptions, to manage expectations and to break down complex behavior.

Since change is so hard, it’s definitely important to involve those who are going to be affected by it in the process of determining how it will be implemented. Executive leaders should present a few options and give employees the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions, really listening to what they have to say. There’s no question that this discussion will be worthwhile, as employees are five times more likely to embrace change if they’re involved in the process of making decisions about it.

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