On Reactions to Change (and the Election)

I often work with organizations on leading and managing change — sometimes major change in very large companies affecting hundreds or thousands of employees.  In response to change, people tend to follow fairly predictable stages, depending on whether it is change they want or change they don’t want, and whether the change is gradual or sudden.

The protests, demonstrations, and occasional violence of those who do not like the election result are an order of magnitude greater than I would expect, except that the election results signal a change from a deeply ingrained mindset, reinforced by the media, and by the tendency of us humans to seek information that confirms our thoughts and biases.  [Here, I make no judgment on that mindset; only the observation that the election result was not what was expected by nearly anyone, and that it was an especially unpleasant shock to those who supported the status quo.]

This is true in organizations as well.  Downsizings and mergers, for example, can be a devastating shock for individuals and groups.  How they deal with it matters both to the organization and to themselves.  Those who are in denial and angry may well act out, or seethe internally.  Those who are resilient will resolve to make things better.

William Bridges has written about the need to avoid obsessing about the things that are changing, but rather to focus on the path forward through the change.  He suggests coming to grips with the inner connections one has to the way things were before the change, and asking the question, “What is it time for me to let go of?”  He points out that the loss one may feel can be in many ways a timely one.  The answer will often provide guidance about the path forward.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

The One Thing Most Leaders Don’t Know About Culture Change

When planning any sort of culture change, be aware that culture change often has an impact on customers and vendors.  This is particularly true when making a strategic change in the business such as making an acquisition or making changes to get on a new growth curve.  Develop a compelling message for those outside your organization, one that fully reinforces what you are doing inside the organization.

For example, several companies I am currently working with are narrowing their strategies to be more distinctive, and to strongly focus their resources (and take full competitive advantage) of what needs to drive their businesses forward.  In every case, these changes in strategy also creates new demands on vendors and increased benefits for their customers.  The need for good messaging goes well beyond employee focus to include vendors and customers.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

What to do with a weak change sponsor

Successful organization change requires a number of factors.  Perhaps the most important is sponsorship — the clear and continual reinforcement of the change message by the top leader, and all other leaders throughout the organization.  No matter how supportive people at lower levels are in the change, if the leaders aren’t legitimizing and reinforcing the change with strong sponsorship, the chances of the change failing are high.

So what can you do if a change sponsor isn’t demonstrating strong sponsorship?  There are three choices:  Teach the sponsor to be effective, replace the sponsor, or get ready for the change to fail.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Practical Tips for Successful Organization Restructuring

Practical Tips for Successful Organization Restructuring
If you’re doing an acquisition, merging, wanting to be more market or customer-focused, or restructuring to cut costs, the last thing you want to do is shuffle boxes and lines.  I learned early in my career, and it’s been borne out over the years working with organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, that with redesigns, there are three enormous traps:

  1. Relying on gut instinct to do the redesign
  2. Letting politics drive redesign decisions
  3. Seeing only lines, boxes and reporting relationships as what is important.

Instead, make sure that you understand the current organization’s strengths and the cause of any limitations.  Have specific design criteria based  on your longer-term strategy — not on fixing current problems.  And be sure to consider the impact of people, accountability, and culture, on how the redesign will work.

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

 

How Strategic Planning is Changing

Gone are the days of big binders with detailed projections, economic analyses, and all the other stuff that is old even before it is put in binders and distributed.  Here are some of the ways strategic plans changing.

  • They’re faster-paced, simpler, more fluid, and much more focused.  Why?  Because markets, technology, and customers are changing so fast, you can’t afford to sit still or to be overly detailed.  Think of it as changing the tires on a car while going 70 miles per hour down a highway.
  • There’s far less concern about today.  If your planning is projecting sales, operations, and organization forward from today, you’re not doing strategy.  What you’re doing is operations improvement.
  • They lock in on a point in the future, then determine how to get there.  That’s the only way to escape the frame of today’s thinking, today’s markets, and today’s products.
  • They are strategic and scenario-based.  In other words, they determine what the firm will look like, what’s it will be exceptional at, and what value it will provide.  Not just doing better what the firm already does.
  • They identify the role of innovation and awareness of growth curves.
  • And they focus on successful implementation and execution — they make strategy part of everyday work, not an added on layer of tasks.

Shake-up your strategic planning.  Throw out the old, plodding approaches.  Use your planning to open up your team’s thinking, get juices flowing, invent your future, and get everyone on the same page.

Getting More In-Tune With External Changes

One of the highest concerns of presidents I talk with these days is how to create an organization that is more proactive in sensing external change, and more responsive when it needs to be.  It’s very much the same as how to create a more innovative organization.  Both require shedding old models of managing and problem solving, and learning to become more open to new and different sources and strategies.

I am currently involved in an MIT course on this topic as it applies to organizations, as well as society and individuals.  The processes, tools and techniques are both interesting and practical.  If you’d like to hear more about how this applies to organizations like yours — or to your own individual learning and growth, give me a call and we’ll find a good time to discuss it.

People Don’t Hate Change

Leaders will sometimes tell me that people hate change.  But it’s not true.  Nearly all of my work involves some amount of organization change.  Sometimes it’s broad, sweeping change in strategy, organization restructuring, or culture.  Other times the change is more limited.  And while it’s true that you can always count on resistance to change — even positive change — it’s not true that people hate change.  What they hate is change that they have no control over, the feeling of surprise when change is sudden, and the helplessness of not knowing what’s coming next.  I’ve found time and again that change can be accelerated and readily adopted by being smart in how the change effort is designed and implemented.  When leaders know how to sponsor and communicate change, and people are involved so that they “own” the change, the results are outstanding. And the approaches, tools, and techniques of successful change leadership are valuable all the time–not just during major change efforts.  What are you doing to make your organization more adaptable and more change ready?