How can leaders demonstrate support for change management? In this month’s Tim Talks, Prosci Change Advisor Susie Taylor asks Tim about the role leaders play in developing change capability. Get more tips for building enterprise change capability here: empower.prosci.com/how-to-grow-enterprise-change-capability
Susie: So Tim, one of the things that defines Prosci is that our mission is to help organizations build their own change management capabilities. So I want to explore that with you. First by asking, why should leaders care about building an internal change management capability?
Leaders in the organization are charged with setting direction, you know, deciding who we want to be as an organization in the next 3 years, in the next 5 years, in next 50 years. So setting strategy is creating change for the organization. And so, if you’re a senior leader and you want to arrive at this strategic destination that you’re painting for the organization, you must equip the organization to successfully bring to life the changes that are necessary for that strategic direction. And we know, the research tells us and all of our experience shows that delivering change outcomes requires bringing people along. And so to me, a change management capability for an executive is in essence a way to actually achieve the strategic direction they are setting about for the organization. So it’s essentially part of what they’re responsible for.
Susie: And why do leaders need to be explicit about their support for building change management and capability? Why is that important?
Tim: Yeah. Great question. I’ve started to play with this phrase that I call, “Getting past the head nod,” because the head nod indicates that people are kinda like, “Oh, yeah, I see where you’re going. Yeah.” Past the head nod is where we actually get real commitment. This change management discipline is sitting in an interesting space right now. I mean, even five years ago, we felt like we had to justify our existence and now, there’s this, “Oh, something went wrong, we need change management.” Almost, the pendulum swung all the way the other way. And so we run the risk of this sort of lip service head nod support to change management by leaders and throughout the organization like, “Oh, the people side of change. That’s important, that matters.”
I think where it gets interesting is when we get past the head nod and that’s is it important enough for us to invest and do work on? And that’s where I think the senior leaders are essential to demonstrate to the organization that. Not that the people side of change is important. Everybody nods their head there, but the people side of change is important enough that we are gonna invest the time, the energy, and the resources. Now, they have 20 years of research telling them that it is in fact important enough, so it’s getting senior leaders to be the voice that this is crucial to me as a leader, to us as an organization, and to you as a successful member of this organization.
Susie: Beyond explicit support, what can senior leaders do to help build capability?
Tim: Great question. What do leaders do to build capability? I think there’s kinda two pieces here. One is how they show up each day. I think leaders have to demonstrate great change leadership, they need to demonstrate what sponsorship looks like, they need to ask probing questions like, “Are we preparing our people for this change?” I think that the way the leader shows up each and every day, demonstrates to the organization the value they’re placing on adoption and usage above and beyond the value they’re speaking to. And so, how they show up is important. And I think the second piece is carving out the resources and focus to grow the capability in and of itself because this is what we watch practitioners run into all the time. I’m sure you’re finding this on the road, right?
We have a practitioner and a client who’s been tasked with growing the capability, and they’re gonna change management lead on three projects. So they’ve got three projects, they’re juggling here, and trying to go to capability here. And every single time, when push comes to shove, this ball gets dropped because these are the balls that are keeping the lights on, these are the initiatives that are going on right now. But if we don’t make the time and space to grow this capability, we’re never going to benefit from that competency. And so I think leaders… One of the things leaders can do to grow this capability, one of the most important things they can do is actually charter, and carve off, and create the time, space, and resources to actually grow the capability because it doesn’t happen off the side of the desk.
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