A few years ago I was facilitating a post-merger integration process for an expanding publicly-traded utility company that had bought a smaller, rural utility in order to expand its territory. The parent company had a balanced scorecard, and we created an aligned scorecard for the smaller company.
I was given a dedicated, full-time team of six people – a “diagonal slice” of the organization including people from different functions and management levels; a dedicated work space with its own kitchen; and very strong executive sponsorship. It was an ideal project from that point of view.
One day I wanted the group to talk about “Change Management,” and wrote that term up on the white board in our meeting area. Brian was one of the team members, and a former IBEW shop steward who was pretty critical about the way things were run. As he walked into the room, Brian said, “That’s exactly what we need to do, Dan. Change the management!”
Brian had quite a point there. Too often, “change management” means “managing what employees think, say and do.” Can we also interpret this term as “changing the way management thinks about change?” When I first learned the term while working with a Big 4 consultancy in the early 90’s, the approach to change management was top-down and essentially manipulative. Senior management, assisted by our brilliant consultants, developed new systems and re-engineered processes to work more efficiently, and “change management” was a set of techniques designed to get the folks to go along with whatever had been decided.
It’s pretty clear that that approach doesn’t work. Change cannot be “managed” like that. Hearts and minds are not so easily manipulated. Change can be led however.
Effective change leaders don’t “manage” people, they engage them.
Engagement begins by creating a vision that is emotionally inspiring to employees, and inviting them to contribute their ideas about what the future should look like, how to get there, and how to measure success. Participation in the process is intrinsically motivating to people, who enjoy the feeling of “knowing what’s going on” and contributing.
The Institute Way provides a detailed approach for building engagement using four inter-related cross-functional teams:
The strategic management team – senior leaders who set strategic direction, provide resources and monitor progress.
Strategic theme teams –cross-functional groups that flesh out key business strategies, or themes.
Communications team – to keep employees and key stakeholders informed
Objective owner teams – cross-functional groups that identify measures and initiatives to generate forward momentum