Models & Methods of Leading Organizational Change

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Leading organization change effectively requires many team-level meetings.
Leading organization change effectively requires many team-level meetings. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

In today’s increasingly competitive organizations, the only constant is change. Progressive leaders must understand when change is required and what to do about it. But, some of the best business strategies can fail in the absence of an appropriate change management initiative. There are as many methods to lead organizational change as there are management styles. However, most of the popular change models and methods can be grouped into four categories.

Step-by-Step Strategic Execution

Step-by-step plans include classical models, like John Kotter’s 8 Step Change Methodology and the Prosci ADKAR Framework. Both methods are based on a similar approache consisting of three main features. These include: garnering organization-wide attention to and urgency around the change; implementing change through individual accountability and visible actions; and inculcating change into the organization through systemic reinforcements, such as metrics and rewards. These frameworks dissect change into manageable parts and facilitate leaders in building individual commitment to change, identifying organizational barriers and overcoming natural resistance.

Organizational Alignment Models

Organizational alignment models include the popular McKinsey 7S Framework and the Star Model, among others. The theory behind them is that all aspects of the organization should work in synergy to deliver the company’s value proposition. McKinsey’s model identifies strategy, structure, systems, staff, style, skills and shared values as the seven factors that must align. The Star model, consisting of five factors, tackles strategy and structure, as well. However, it deviates from the McKinsey model to include processes and lateral capabilities, reward systems and people practices.

How does this alignment look? Strategy, for example, includes the vision, direction and competitive advantages of the company. Lateral capabilities refer to the organization’s teams and how they work together. So, for example, if the strategy mandates the support of customer’s global needs, the teams within the organization must be both internationally based and culturally diverse.

Culture Change Methodologies

Most organizational change methodologies purport to change the culture. Culture change methodologies, however, explicitly seek to shift the values and beliefs of the organization to a new paradigm that more effectively supports long-term goals and objectives. Culture initiatives typically begin with a visioning session to define the company’s future image. Next, leaders identify the gap between the current state and the future vision. Once the gap is determined, leaders seek to affect the culture through a series of targeted interventions intended to alter behaviors, beliefs and experiences. For example, leaders may use targeted feedback and storytelling to encourage desired behaviors.

Appreciative Inquiry Methods

Appreciate inquiry (AI), though still in its infancy, is an emerging methodology. AI considers the organization as a human system that realizes its most productive and positive future through asking the right questions. AI techniques generate stories of past achievement and unexplored potential to create positive momentum for change.

Interviewing is another AI technique. Leaders craft questions that will solicit positive stories of the behaviors and interactions they want to promote. For example, if the company objective is to be more innovative, leaders solicit and repeat innovation anecdotes. However, beyond merely recording and repeating the stories, leaders use the stories to imagine and, subsequently, develop practical solution for driving future innovative. A practical solution may change how teams are structured or how they work together across organizational boundaries. AI can be used to encourage all types of behavioral change.

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