Follow the ... Follower?
Within an organization, change and improvement planning call for systems and discipline. Many improvement paths are discovered accidentally by change champions blazing new trails. Newly discovered paths can then be applied to the whole wagon train.
Change and improvement processes adjust to the shifting environment and what’s being learned about what works and what doesn’t. Both top-down and bottom-up approaches are needed. The challenge is finding the proper balance.
Managers play a pivotal role in the success of any change effort. They signal values, plan, direct and coordinate—which are vital tasks. However, most don’t address the employee-management change and improvement paradox.
The leadership component of the paradox involves managing the context and focus of change; preparing a creative, educational environment; establishing goals; and setting the improvement planning framework.
The service side of the paradox is about “followership,” which starts with identifying change champions. As members or leaders of operational and improvement teams, they are much closer to the action than anyone in senior management. As a result, they both understand which improvement tactics will work, and hold the balance of the implementation of power. Without their commitment, the best-laid plans will fail.
Organization-wide, planning includes setting the broad improvement map and developing preliminary plans.
Planning also entails connecting teams and champions who might have already gone through the learning steps of experimentation. As these innovators learn the full improvement plan, they’re shown how to adapt new processes and tools. Change champions can use these tools and processes to build on earlier experiences and move closer to a company’s goals. If leaders follow the change champions, management will stay in the lead.
BY JIM CLEMMER
Jim Clemmer is a bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, workshop/retreat leader and management team developer on leadership, change, customer focus, culture, teams and personal growth. During the last 25 years, he has delivered more than 2,000 customized keynote presentations, workshops and retreats. Jim’s five international bestselling books include “The VIP Strategy,” “Firing on All Cylinders,” “Pathways to Performance,” “Growing the Distance” and “The Leader’s Digest.” His website is www.clemmer.net.