We come across all sorts of change behaviours, and have created our own categorisation to help inform change leadership.
Much of what we do here at Remsol is centred around change making: first, we help our clients to identify the changes that they can make in order to improve their sustainability and CSR performance, and then we assist them to make the identified changes.
But what we don’t do is change things for them.
For the changes we help tease out to be successful, our clients need to own them and that means someone has to engage in change leadership.
What is change leadership?
Change leadership is the ability to influence and enthuse others through personal advocacy, vision and drive, and to access resources to build a solid platform for change, or so say Higgs and Rowland (2000) in their definition. We think this is a pretty concise and accurate summary.
When trying to make any workplace change at all, someone needs to steer the business through it. Someone needs to get everyone else onboard so that they all feel empowered to contribute and therefore want to participate; someone needs to make sure that nobody is left behind feeling totally disenfranchised by the whole thing. And that someone needs to articulate what it’s all for – what will change, how any why is it necessary, and how will it affect the the business and the people in it.
That’s what change leadership is all about.
Our change leadership model
When assisting businesses as they embark on introducing changes, we’ve found that people, operating units — and sometimes even entire businesses — view change differently at different stages of implementation.
Having identified a set of common behaviour-based factors, we developed a change leadership model to help us do a better job of guiding our clients, but it’s a useful tool for anyone tasked with making changes, and it looks like this:
1 – Ostrich
In the very early stages, people will often deny the need for change and continue to bury their heads in the sand. This is when the leader of the change has to put the most work into creating a unifying vision of what is to come, why it’s important and what success will look like.
2 – Tortoise
Eventually, people will start to appreciate that change is necessary, but any efforts at making those changes could still be painfully slow. Whoever is leading the change will need to do so from the front, injecting personal passion and a sense of urgency in order to drive change forwards.
3 – Bull
By now, the need for and advantages of change are well understood, but implementation mistakes are made in the enthusiasm to achieve change. The change leadership practitioner now has to exercise some fine judgement: rein-in that enthusiasm too much, and you can quickly undermine morale and sap peoples’ will; allow people to blunder on excitedly, and you could endanger the chances of success.
4 – Gazelle
Eventually, change becomes an accepted practice and not something everyone fears, but it’s managed and planned for so that it’s achieved swiftly and gracefully.
Progression through our change leadership model
The transition from ostrich to tortoise can occur relatively speedily near the beginning of a programme of change, as people grudgingly accept its necessity and buy-in to the vision of what success will look like. Progression to the next stages can be slower and tends to come further on in the change process, but once you have a group of like-minded people behind you and performing like a herd of gazelles, getting them to embrace further cycles of change is much easier.
But, beware: as new people get involved in making change, there’s a chance that they will be at an earlier stage in this evolutionary continuum, and so the person charged with managing change will need to be adaptable and flexible enough in their approach to be able to respond. This means being alert to the Ostrich, Tortoise and Bull behaviours that define someone’s current state-of-mind when it comes to change, and modifying your approach accordingly.
Want to see our change leadership model in action? Easy — just hire us to help you get serious about sustainability and CSR.