When change is led by an organizational leader rather than a dedicated Change Manager, the opportunity is for Change management professionals to act in a more strategic, advisory capacity; offering coaching and assisting leaders to deliver change rather than just doing the hands-on work.
This is an excellent way for expert Change professionals to maximize their positive impact in the organization by scaling their contributions across more business areas. It also has the result of increasing change capability amongst leaders.
This approach is commonly used where the change is highly technical in nature, and the Change professional might have required subject matter literacy in order to communicate effectively.
At ChangePlan, we’ve noticed an increase in change initiatives being led by leaders rather than by dedicated Change management professionals. This seems to be the result of organizations becoming more change-mature, and overall project budgets being tighter.
However, the leader-led approach is not without its pitfalls. So.. here are four questions to ask at the outset to avoid derailing the project.
1. Who Owns the Communications?
Nothing derails Change faster than mixed messages from different sources.
Advise your Leaders that a robust change strategy should include a well-defined, tight communications plan, including clear timelines and channels – how and when information is delivered should be thought out.
If leaders are to be responsible for engaging stakeholders, they must be made aware of the importance of sticking to an agreed communications plan.
Their strategy document may include snippets and tasters drip-fed via social media channels with a big-bang launch with a sponsor video at a quarterly town hall. All of that could be easily ruined should a leader inadvertently let details slip at a monthly meeting.
2. How will leaders detect & deal with Resistance?
It’s essential that leaders are coached to carefully listen and watch for resistance, and are given mechanisms to deal with it.
Change resistance is often not resistance to the Change itself; it could be change fatigue, conflicting KPIs, or simply fear of the unknown.
Since resistance is rarely confined to one area, feedback loops are a useful mechanism for ensuring concerns are heard and addressed.
Employee psychological safety is paramount and inexperienced leaders should be supported to deal with difficult conversations raised about the Change.
3. Will the Sponsor help clarify roles?
When a Change professional acts in an advisory capacity, such as in leader-led change, they should ideally be viewed as a valuable resource with expertise that can be leveraged by the leader.
Without proper positioning, leaders may view the change professional as administrative support or, worse, an annoyance.
So, it’s important that the project Sponsor actively clarifies the role of the change professional, positioning them as a trusted, valued advisor, and encouraging leaders to utilize them in that capacity.
The change professional should also take responsibility to ensure they position themselves as a valued resource, with a dollar and expertise value, pushing back on requests to reformat PowerPoints and buy muffins.
4. Where will the Change work be done?
Leader-led change benefits from leaders having access to a single, straightforward place to do the change work.
Our software platform ChangePlan helps leaders to work through the basic steps in managing their change project, including identifying audience groups, assessing impacts & risks, and building the right change management activities.
It gives them a clear structure for building their change plan and keeps them on track by demonstrating what steps they have yet to take. Importantly it also gives the change professionals supporting them an opportunity to oversee their progress and offer targeted assistance when needed.
We’d love to show you how ChangePlan is supporting both leaders and change professionals during Leader-led change. Click here to schedule a demo.