Monday, May 16, 2011

Lost your mojo?

I've written before about the need to engage your people early in the change programme. The need to create momentum through involvement and engagement is also a well established practice. This simple rule of 'engage and involve early' works particularly well if the organisation knows it needs change and has an energetic and engaged population. But what if they aren't. What if your people have had such a long period of stagnation that they think their current reality is normal. What if people are short on ideas and energy. 
What if your organisation has lost it's mojo?

Many organisations become skeptical of change and their leader needs to re-build trust ensuring that this time the change will happen and will deliver what it promises. Teams in this environment will often participate in the debate about what needs to change and have ideas about how to improve the organisation but will do so with a large degree of skepticism. In this case the leader can engage in debate and involve the organisation in the 'how' if they have a determination to follow through and make the outcomes happen. In effect they are tapping in to ideas and energy that the last leader didn't tap in to.

But an organisation that has been doing things the same way for so long that the majority aren't able to see the need for change and can't see past the existing way of doing things, requires a different approach. The question is 'what approach?' 

  • Does the leader not only flesh out the vision but bring to the table how it is accomplished? With all the risks that a 'one man crusade' has?
  • Do you 'have a clear out' and bring in fresh blood? An approach favoured by many but with inherent risks. (lost knowledge, commitment of those remaining, mood of the organisation etc)
  • Do you seek out the few who do aspire to something better and create your guiding coalition from those voices? The risk if they are not current managers, the potential for alienation by their colleagues, their managers and the pressure to conform is obvious here. 

So what's the answer? Well as always in change there is no one route. Everything is contextual to the situation you find yourself in as a leader. The answer will likely rest in a combination of all three, at least:

  • The new leader will certainly have to signal change, and be ready for that to be met with resounding silence at best and outright rejection at worst. Be ready to be on your own here!
  • Assessment of the key post-holders in leadership positions, how invested they are in the current reality versus their willingness to come on a different journey, along with their capability of operating within the new vision, will mean that new blood may be required in key areas that are the drivers of change.
  • Involve those with potential in the redesign and give them roles where they have an opportunity to influence and explain to others. It doesn't matter where they sit in the organisations hierarchy, if they influence those around them then they are gradually going to build a tipping point with you. 
  • Of course you will have to give those who are dead set against the change a chance to get off the bus, whatever level they sit at. Some may self select by request and some by action. If this is managed well by the new leader with empathy and respect then the rest of the organisation, those who want to come along, will appreciate your actions. 
Most importantly prepare for this being a long haul journey, with a lot of hard decisions and lonely days before you start to see results.