Home | Client Comments | Programs | Presentations | Library | Contact Us
  Company Management Resource Library

Complete Business Wisdom

Creating, Supporting and Sustaining Change — an imperative for today’s businesses
Harvy Simkovits, CMC – Published in Boston Business Journal – 5/24/02

Dealing with change is the biggest challenge for today’s businesses. There is hardly a company not affected by today’s changing business conditions, including greater customer demands, relentless competitive pressures, and fluctuating economic conditions. Companies need to create more nimble and streamlined organizations that can quickly, even radically adjust to change, otherwise to they will find themselves in the dust of their marketplace.

An Example of Sound Change Leadership

One small-business leader saw that his organization was not adapting rapidly enough to changing business conditions, thus endangering his company’s survival. To quickly turn his organization around, this leader first worked to generate organizational discontent around the current state of the company’s affairs. He had some customers, vendors and industry experts come into the company and provide a tough-talking industry "reality check" to his management and key staff. This hard-hitting news dislodged the company’s complacency about its way of dealing with its marketplace.

Second, this leader worked to create a new, desired and sustainable future vision and business mission that the company’s team needed to embrace to survive and succeed. Third, he worked with his team to set out next steps for the company to move toward its desired vision. Fourth, he gave his team a stake in the outcomes, making their rewards dependent upon their achievement of the desired future. Lastly, he acknowledged and recognized his team for early progress towards that desired future, and cheered them on when the going got tough.

Also, during this organizational change, this business leader noticed that some of his people were "early innovators" or "quick adopters," grabbing onto the opportunities of the company’s new vision and mission. The leader supported and rewarded these people’s efforts. He also noticed that there were some "hard-core resistors" on his team, who could not let go of the old ways. He intuitively knew that if he did not effectively deal with, or confront, those resistors (even asking some of them to leave the company), they would pull the rest of his organization back into the old ways. Fortunately, this leader knew exactly where to challenge, confront, cajole, support and even handhold his people through the needed company changes.

With any major organizational change come winners (people who gain from the change) and losers (casualties of the change). This business leader knew that individual and collective losses in his organization needed to be effectively managed to allow those negatively affected by the change to quickly let go of the past and embrace a desired future. Also, those who did not support or fit in with the new vision were gracefully and tactfully let go. Otherwise, this leader surmised, the survivors of the change (those who stayed) might feel some guilt and shame with regard to those casualties, and thus be less effective in moving the company forward.

Leading Change in Your Business

When it comes to your own efforts in spurring change in your organization, you will find it easier to reduce the forces against change (reducing resistance by just effectively listening to and including people) than to increase the forces for change (just pushing the benefits of the change). Thus, always try to identify what stands in the way of needed changes, and remove those obstacles, rather than just trying to ram things through.

Likewise, you’ll find it easier to create an environment where the team can create change themselves than to attempt to prod the team. For example, just by opening a top-team conversation about internal company strengths and challenges, as well as external business opportunities and threats, you can spur your people to move toward what’s most important for the company’s internal and external success.

Making this work requires continual, patient yet passionate communication from you with regard to the reasons for letting go of the past, the process for moving forward to a desired future, and the potential rewards of achieving that preferred future. You need to offer people hope in a future vision that represents a much better situation than where things are today or have been in the past. Your job as a leader is to define the "why" and the "what" of change, allowing your people to come up with the "how" to get there – thereby allowing those people to feel more included, empowered, and capable in making required changes.

Adjusting to major organizational change is never easy. Yet, effectively leading change can make all the difference in getting people to accept and even embrace the changes that will yield a better and brighter business future.

Harvy Simkovits, CMC, President of Business Wisdom, works with owner managed companies to help them grow, prosper and continue on by offering innovative approaches to business development, company management, organization leadership and learning, and management education. He can be reached at 781-862-3983 or .

Business Wisdom
4 Angier Road, Lexington, MA 02420 – (781) 862-3983 – www.Business-Wisdom.com