Knowing When It’s Time for a Change

Published Monday, April 25, 2011 9:53 PM

Turn on CNN and the news is full of world leaders who didn't get the message: change is afoot. From Hosni Mubarak to Muammar el-Qaddaffi, world leaders are waking up to their people in the streets, demanding change.

What lesson can business leaders derive from current world events other than autocrats never win; they eventually lose their stranglehold on power? According to Washington Post columnist and leadership consultant John Baldoni, strong leaders, unlike autocrats, know when it's time to change.

Baldoni defines strong leaders as individuals that are "open to alternate points of view and are willing to act on those points of view if they believe change is necessary."

The Times They Are a Changin'

So when to say when to the status quo and yes to change? Change management gurus use an acronym-ADKAR- to define the various stages of change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. ADKAR promotes successful and lasting transformation.

  • Awareness - This is recognizing the need for change.
  • Desire - Who needs to participate in the change?
  • Knowledge - Who has the knowledge to guide the change?
  • Ability - Who will implement skill sets and change behaviors?
  • Reinforcement - Who will lay the foundation for change initially and for the future?

Awareness, the first stage, is critical. Without awareness, change never gets off the starting blocks. To help nurture awareness, experts recommend listing the reasons why change is necessary. Next, leaders need to communicate this awareness throughout the organization. Awareness must be shared to be successful. Nobody works with mind-readers so get ready to transmit your vision for change with your staff and organization through one-on-one meetings, department meetings, interviews, surveys, brainstorming sessions, meeting agendas, etc. 

When building awareness of the need for change, the communicator is as important as the message. Studies show employees prefer two communicators:

  • CEO or business executive
  • Direct supervisor

Communication is a two-way street so use these sessions to solicit feedback by asking pointed questions. For example, rather than asking "what needs to be changed?" ask "how can we increase sales by spending X dollars?"  Targeted questions will produce answers that illustrate the need for change in the organization.

Finally, remember in all things be patient. Change won't happen overnight. Creating and spreading awareness takes time; allow awareness to firmly take hold before tackling the next phase of ADKAR.

Have you helped lead your organization through change? Do you have any tips or strategies for effecting long-lasting change? Share your thoughts here and on the Pendaflex Facebook page.

by Bradley Eggers



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