Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Monday, March 21, 2005

Principles of Change Initiatives

I recently reviewed a change project assignment for my graudate studies, and found several key learnings that have very good general crossover appeal for any manner of organization seeking to spark meaningful change.

  1. Professional courtesy and mutual respect engenders collaboration

    This has little to do with liking a person. When you let someone know you do not like them, they have won. So when implementing change initiatives, respect must be genuine irrespective of mutual regard. So it is that when there is a preexisting relationship between two parties, especially a positive one that has been cultivated over time, introducing the other person to change (or requesting a commitment from them) is much easier to accomplish.

  2. Never underestimate the power of a coffee break

    Even a seemingly token gesture of buying someone a cup of coffee is meaningful. Because such coffee breaks assume (and require) more personal interaction than involuntary encounters, a person taking such initiative can develop greater influence with that person. Making the time to connect with someone, even at a level that appears (or even when it is) trivial, speaks volumes to the recipient. This is never more true than when the initiator has no agenda.

  3. An effective leader needs to be true to his or her word

    When you say you want to meet, you need to follow up!

  4. One must be consistent to be credible

    When you set a timetable, you need to show up!

  5. Do not let momentum falter

    There is an almost inverse relationship between entropy and momentum. As change initiatives begin, the effort needed to overcome inertia (or resistance) is significant, relative to when momentum begins to build. The greater the resistance was to change, the more critical the need for sustaining momentum and achieving "wins".

  6. There is little one can accomplish within a change-resistant environment that having executive support won’t help overcome

    If rewards for change are the proverbial carrot, then invoking executives' names in support of the change is the stick. That is to say, key assisters are crucial to successful implementation of a change initiative. When members of a change initiative are able to cut through bureaucracy and red tape by dropping the name of their executive champion, odds of success increase dramatically as resistance to change decreases.

    Note the inverse relationship between morale and forcing change down followers' throats. While executive support can grease the wheels, if used liberally, it can also foster resentment.

  7. People’s openness to change is an almost unquantifiable variable
    To assume change opportunities ripen at a similar rate for two different people, or that two different people ripen to new ideas at the same time, is to open the door to failure, at worst, or to damage your relationship with a slow ripener, at best.

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