Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


The Strategy of Change

Volume: October 2011

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Studies have shown that fewer than 25% of workplace change initiatives are successful. Many of you reading this newsletter are probably in disbelief that the percentage is that high. It seems as though the pace of change is increasing at an accelerating rate. Yet, few organizations appear able to seamlessly implement positive change. As leaders, it is our job to help our team members keep up with important changes, while still keeping them focused on performing important duties and job functions. This is no easy task. Often times leaders make everyone’s job more difficult by not taking control of change. You may ask (in a flummoxed tone of voice, no less): “How the heck do we control change in the workplace?” The answer is a six-step change-process journey. As luck would have it, each step is detailed below.

  1. Involve Team Members. To the best of your ability involve people in the change process. Let them be part of facilitated roundtables or participate in surveys. You do not have to commit to every idea they have regarding change, however, you may be surprised at their level of sophistication with regard to dealing with change. Remember: the more team members are involved in the early phases of the change process, the higher the probability that they will buy into the final changes that are rolled out.


  1. Obtain a Clear Understanding. Many leaders learn about or receive direction concerning change and go off half-cocked to “drive change.” Typically, these leaders do not entirely understand the nuances surrounding the change. Rarely have they contemplated the medium-term and long-term consequences associated with the changes they are driving. There are always consequences to change, aren’t there? So my advice is to make certain that you clearly understand the changes that are being requested. In addition, seek to anticipate the good or potentially unpleasant byproducts that may occur as a result of the change.


  1. Strategy. Strategic thinking is paramount to a successful change effort, yet it is so seldom mapped out. Yes, that’s right. Map out the strategic steps involved in your change initiative. Note: only do this if you want to be part of the 25% of organizations that successfully roll out important changes. Since people tend to only remember about 20% of what they hear (Dale, 1969), make certain you supplement the verbal diatribe associated with change with a written road map of where you and your team are going.  


  1. Pre-Communication. Nothing resonates with people facing change quite like getting a little heads up on what’s coming down the pipe. Greasing the organizational wheels with tidbits of communication regarding upcoming changes gives team members a chance to mentally prepare for the changes about to take place. In addition, frequently communicating updates about the forthcoming changes will greatly assist in stemming the evil buzz that may stir on your organization’s grapevine.


  1. Implementation. With most change initiatives, the implementation phase is the difficult part of the process. This should not be the case. The heavy lifting should take place before the rollout of change. If you have involved team members on the front-end of change, and you have created a written step-by-step plan of action, implementation should be a breeze. Simply follow your road map, communicate alterations to the road map, and positively reinforce the positive behavior you observe. The leader’s job during implementation is to observe, communicate, and cheerlead.


  1. Post-Communication. Don’t let this secret out, but leaders can actually communicate after they have successfully rolled out a change initiative. This is arguably the most important part of the process because it sets the tone for future, successful changes. Your post-communication should take the form of reporting the good, bad, and the ugly of the recently implemented changes. Let team members know the result of their hard-work and efforts. Were the targets you set met? If so, state why and give proper kudos. Are there stories to share? Funny tales are particularly good for morale. Who are the change-heroes that deserve recognition? Give them praise publicly or privately, as they prefer.


Bottom Line: Change is a process, not an event. In order for change to be implemented elegantly, effectively, a strategy must be mapped out and executed. You will not be disappointed by the results. Mainly because the results you drive will be positive.


Until next time, be well.


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