Transforming Organizations: Hit the Heart

When I was ten we moved across town. I spent the first lunch hour locked in the bathroom of my house. I hated my teacher, Mrs. Hansen. She gave me detention for looking out of the window. I had no friends. I was in a new neighborhood, new house, new room and now new school. I had made the change but I had not transformed. I hated this new life and simply was not going back to school.

We are all faced with change. Companies change regularly and leaders are judged by their ability to visualize change, outline the steps to get there and then execute. The measure of success is numeric: cost reduction, headcount reduction, revenue increase, deadlines met. But how do you measure whether the change is embedded? Will the organization resist the new processes and thus limit the benefits?

Changing requires both doing something different and thinking differently about things. A good leader must bring the heart around.

  • Listen to the organization – Create working teams, feedback sessions, training opportunities and design sessions to make sure that the organization is on-board and has skin in the game.
  • Incorporate input – The listening is not just for show. If you want to get to the best solution for change you need to take input onboard. The best ideas come from a diverse organization. The best performing organizations are diverse.
  • Communicate progress – Do this in more than one way. Write newsletters. Send emails. Have coffee or tea meetings and open it up to questions. Show up in person wherever possible and let people vent, contribute and question.
  • Celebrate success – Often when moving fast it is easy to forget to recognizing the good stuff along the way. It is tempting to wait until the end even if you do remember. Not wise. The heart needs to be moved along with the process and organization changes. You will actually accelerate change by stopping to recognize the good stuff.

My first day of 5th grade was not a disaster after all. I did stay after school but in doing so met my best friend. Mrs. Hansen was very strict but ended up being my favorite elementary teacher. My friends and I bike-hiked to her house the following summer to meet her new baby daughter. Mrs. Hansen became a mentor.  I was not a fan of the move across town but ended up loving our house, neighborhood and school after going through my change of heart. What changed my heart was relationships and experience over time. Putting that language into work terms this looks like engaging people in the change with honest interest in what they contribute to the process.

Things do not change, We do
~ Henry David Thoreau

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