Leading Change: An Issue of Skill or Choice?

In a previous post, I wrote on how change has been redefined as a constant and that even the most seasoned leaders are ill-equipped to lead toward transformed and sustained performance. If you believe this to be your reality, take heart. Your challenge may not be an issue of skill, but rather of choice.

joe post change

The Choices of Change

All sectors of leaders face three different types of change: Standing, Active, and Transformational. Each type requires a distinctive mindset, strategy, and common tools to succeed. Leaders must know how to accurately measure the type of change directed in order to successfully access the appropriate change strategies needed.

1.0 – Standing Change

Standing Change is the simplest effort of improving what is—an existing method, skill, or standard. Examples of Standing Change include improving an operational process, increasing work skills, or refining the talent on-boarding process.

Standing Change typically has less significant impact upon people and usually calls for heightened IQ capacity of knowledge, skill, and means of operating. Processing Standing Change typically is driven via traditional project management approaches where work flow variables are known in advance and managed against the guiding factors of time and budget. In this static change order, leaders are able to declare desired outcomes and can execute through the existing organizational team structure.

2.0 – Active Change

Active Change has added complexity. Rather than simply improving upon what is, Active Change invests in new structures, business processes, and/or technical systems. It requires a shift to a new state, which is often definable at the front end of the change process. An example of this comes from a large government organization we serve. This agency is in the transition and buildout stage to guide their recruitment, selection, and hiring practices. This is a solid sample of Active Change as this fast growing organization will significantly shift from their former protocols yet not experience a radical alteration of general work designs, responsibility or authority. Active Change is fairly predictable and like Standing Change, can also be managed against tight budgets and timelines.

3.0 – Transformational Change

Transformational Change carries a drastically different dynamic and requires a fundamentally different approach, mindset, and method. Transformational Change is a non-natural leadership response that radically shifts from 1.0 and 2.0 change strategies (managing structures and systems) to a new order of leading team, modeling behavior, executing upon new expectations and accelerating healthy team culture over a sustained period of time.

The successful Transformational Change processes integrates a commonly understood vocabulary, common visual tools, leadership language and effective methods of multiplying leadership skills and best practices.


Transformation as Uncharted Territory

Clarity on the other side of transformation is largely uncertain at the launch of the change process. At the initiation, leaders and teams have a general direction in view, but the ultimate outcome of transformation becomes more greatly illuminated as teams proceed forward. Transformational Change is non-linear with the preferred future coming into view as byproduct of the Transformational Change process itself.

Numerous course corrections and “just in time” adaptations are the norm in the journey of Transformational Change.

Transformational Change is rarely lead effectively through the meme of domineering, command, or fear based positions of control. Leaders who influence from a posture of empowerment are more capable of navigating the tricky dynamics of guiding structure and “in the moment” spontaneity. Transformational leadership calls for a shift from the common fear and pride based tendencies of preservation and protection to an uncommon leadership response that is driven by a secure foundation of self-awareness, self-confidence and accurate self-assessment.

When leaders stay entrenched in their old habits of insecurity they ultimately loose focus, market share, and the trust of their teams. Regrettably, without the required shifts in culture, new initiatives are slow to take hold and less effective in delivering the results intended.

The Good News – There is ample evidence of Transformational Change, across numerous industries, governmental agencies, and nonprofit sectors observed.

The Caveat – The proliferation of healthy transformed culture is seen across all sectors but only after breakthrough and intentional release of the command, control, protective, and domineering leadership styles acutely common in our world today. Secure organizations mature and co-create environments where empowerment and opportunity become the norm. The intended consequence – greater team collaboration, cross-departmental support, innovation, systems integration, and customer loyalty.

To exist in the fast-paced and crazy competitive sprint for performance, leaders have choice. Standing and/or Active Change may be your most efficient approach to good but may not be the right choice for enduring greatness. To thrive forward in this new market reality, organizations must Become, Build, and Lead as Transformational artists.

What Type of Change Are You Facing?

Determine the primary type of change you are leading by answering the following questions.

1.0 – Standing Change

  1. Does your existing change effort primarily require an improvement of your current way of operating rather than a new system?
  2. Will training in skill and knowledge coupled with enhanced communications suffice to carry out this change?
  3. Does your current culture and team mind-set support the needs of this change?

2.0 – Active Change

  1. Does your change effort require you to disband your existing way of operating and replace it with something trusted and known but different?
  2. At the start of your change effort, were you able to design a clear picture of the envisioned reality?
  3. Is it realistic to expect this change to occur over a predetermined timetable?

3.0 – Transformational Change

  1. Does your organization need to begin the change process before the destination is fully clarified, known, and defined?
  2. Is the scope of this change so broad that it requires the existing organizational culture and the behavior of your team to shift significantly in order to successfully achieve the new state and its desired outcomes?
  3. Does the change require your organization’s structure, operations, products, development, or technology to change radically to successfully meet the new paradigm of marketplace need?

Want to go deeper? My next post will equip you with bottom line truths to maximize your impact and success rate in leading Transformational Change – 3.0 across your entire organization.