When looking to change the culture of a company, it’s often said that a CEO has to articulate a vision of the future that appeals to everyone. It’s a somewhat simplistic and cinematic view of the power of speeches, as these ‘visions’ have to be earthed in a reality that can be understood by customers and put into practice by employees.
So, when it comes to introducing change in an organisation, what is the difference between being a visionary leader as opposed to just being someone who likes the sound of their own voice? First and foremost, a systematic approach will be required once the speeches are over if there is going to be any hope of getting people to think and act differently.
, Head of Planning and Sustainable Development at Waitrose, says:“ At the beginning of a change programme, you need to ask how you’re going to measure success; how much will it cost to implement this programme of change?”
Success will lie in the humdrum details. Ian Bowles
, CEO of Allocate Software, says: “The first thing that needs to be considered in forming a change management programme is what needs to change and why. You then need to consider what impact – positive and negative –
the change may have on employees and customers.”
Naomi says: “Having a set timescale is one of the main priorities... knowing you need things by a certain date and having clear milestones and a plan so you can monitor your change programme over its duration.”
, Head of Brand and Communications at Santander, comments: “Often, enough isn't done post the launch of a change initiative. That’s especially true of senior management... they want to move onto the next project... But there needs to be a rigorous, ruthless programme of work that embeds the change across everything in the organisation. I've seen change programmes fail before when it is not embedded in day-to-day performance management... Every manager must talk about it in every one-to-one they have with their employees.”
Employees may nod and agree when changes are announced. However, the trick is to get them to believe in what is being proposed without having to put it in such black and white terms that it’s either your way or the highway.
, Non-executive Director at Southern Water and a former Customer Service Director on the board of Telefonica O2, says: “People have to understand what you are doing and also why. At O2, we were talking about turning customers into fans and we were able to explain to our people that fans behaved differently from customers – they stay longer, buy more and recommend to their friends. All this, we explained, kept them in a job. It's about what you're trying to do and why it's relevant to them.”
, Co-founder and Director of consultancy The Storytellers, says: “Articulating the case for change needs to be tied up into a story and brought to life in a compelling way. You have to explain why the change needs to happen, how it will be executed and where the company is trying to get to and what it will take from everybody to get there.
“Once that case for change is laid out, then you can start connecting the organisation to it and connecting leaders to it. They can engage their teams with it and start communicating within the organisation to empower people to come up with ideas in line with that narrative, so you are aligning their actions and behaviours.”
It’s about gaining a consensus, while also having a plan to deal with the likelihood of some employees, including senior management, not being able to make the necessary adjustments. Mark Parsons
, SVP Business Development UK, Ireland & Nordics, DHL Supply Chain, says: “The last thing you would want to do in a cultural change programme is to force through the change by removing personnel. That doesn't change the culture; it brings in fear, whereas you want a more engaged culture.”
The danger is that the morale of the business is broken in the attempt to try and rebuild it. That’s why a leader must be strong when it comes to attention to detail and really think about how a system can be put in place to build engagement and belief among employees about why changes are needed to protect the future of the company.
, Managing Director of Rio Tinto Diamonds, says: "There’s nothing better when trying to get buy-in than getting people to build a vision for themselves, so we brought my direct reports and other key leaders across the business together in workshops for three days or so, to get them to help design
the vision for the new company."
That's the key to creating sustainable, long-term reforms. Annette Burgess
, Commercial Director, Baker & Taylor UK, says: “Active and ongoing leadership from the top is an essential prerequisite for achieving change... Senior leaders in the organisation must support what's being proposed by leading it and changing their own behaviours.”
I hope to see you soon.