BuildingChangeWe’re all familiar with the quote: “The only thing that is constant is change.” In fact, it’s hard to find someone who can’t recite it. It’s that widely understood. So it’s puzzling, if not confusing, as to why so many leaders are slow to accept and integrate change in their organizations. Perhaps it’s that people do not so much resist change as they do the uncertainty that change brings.

For leaders of training and learning functions, taking a leadership position in managing change makes sense in the context of their responsibilities, and it can raise their value in the organization as change leaders. C-level executives, necessary participants in any meaningful change, can begin to look to L&D leaders with a new found respect and estimation.

Change Management is a set of integrated tools and practices applied to accelerate organizational adoption of new programs, initiatives, and technology solutions. For example, migration to a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform such as SAP or Oracle requires companywide training, and to ensure rollout success, implementing a change and org adoption strategy is highly recommended.

Training should be an essential component in driving the mastery of Change Management and leadership. It is an organized, albeit sometimes informal set of activities, aimed at creating the conditions that improve and change a person’s (or team’s) performance, thereby mitigating the effects of change.

Training leaders have an opportunity to not only embrace change — but to accelerate it. To seize those opportunities, there are several skills these leaders will want to develop.

Strategy First - A beginning point is that leaders must hone their skills as smart strategists. They need to become alert to conditions within and outside the organization that can impact overall performance, and which training can help employees in adapting more quickly. Learning leaders, by exercising their flexibility and looking-ahead muscles, can play a strategic role in bringing along the rest of the organization by reducing fear and resistance.

Spirit of Innovation - Having a spirit of audacious innovation is a second capability that change masters want to develop. They seek out new ideas and create a culture within their own training domain where people are encouraged to propose, test and implement new ideas and turn them into opportunities. Some attempts may produce profound failures while others yield great outcomes. Such is the nature of innovation. But leaders take measured risks in presenting a compelling business case for change with courage and confidence.

Let Your Values Shine - Because change represents uncertainty, finding change masters who have a set of core values that reflect their life experiences and align with the organization’s mission can provide employees with constancy of purpose. These become a beacon for the team and for other groups who can look to them as the internal compass that delivers the learning that controls the fear and reduces the uncertainty of change. The best leaders inspire others through the art of influence, which is nestled in the power of their values. They are relationship builders, and they actively coach their team members towards individual and team achievements and the accomplishment of the organization’s mission.

As a process, change management includes an organizational readiness plan that has these adoption drivers:

  1. Executive sponsorship
  2. Alignment
  3. Change-specific communications

An essential ingredient of successful change is the role that senior leaders and executives play. They must sign on to the idea and execution of a change plan and participate actively and visibly throughout the change process. Visible participation could be considered the most important of any sponsor activity. This sponsorship includes allocating the necessary funding for the change initiative and attending project review meetings. An important word in this role is "throughout." Sponsors cannot disappear once they've attended the kick-off meeting. Their sustained presence is necessary to build and maintain momentum for a change.

Change masters take a lead role in building and maintaining a healthy coalition in support of the change. The sponsor must mobilize other key business leaders and stakeholders so they can take the change back to their part of the organization. They communicate directly with employees, who need to hear about why a change is important from someone at the top—either at the C-level or when training leadership steps up to become a change agent—messages about why the change is being made and the risks or costs if none are made.

Alignment is the extent to which leaders and all employees are “on the same page” about what the change is, why it is important, what it will mean to the organization. For the organization to meet its goals, it needs to align on its mission credo, ensuring the organization stays focused on success.

It is not uncommon for change initiatives to fail, due in part to the absence of organizational acceptance. Communication is a critical factor in all change management activities. A structure of regular and effective communications minimizes stakeholders' levels of uncertainty and reduces the impact to the current business. Without an organizational adoption plan that has a communications component, a new strategy or system will fail, regardless of how much money or planning is invested.

Communication is one of the toughest change management issues in an organization, so it is important to develop a carefully constructed communication plan. Its purpose is to define the overall approach that will be used in delivering the messages and facilitating conversations that fuel the change initiative.

A final word: remember that while it is almost impossible to over-communicate when leading change, there is a fine line between meaningful signals and noise! Quantity matters, quality matters more.

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