Which one should it be? Well both are needed but we need people to lead the change if it is going to be a success.
Successful change management initiatives will most likely start at the top, with a committed and aligned group of executives strongly supported by the CEO.
However, every level of the organisation needs to be actively involved. The change will not happen in the board room!
The first thing needed is a clear vision for the organisation, or what I prefer to call the direction.
It may be that we all agree on the direction, but we will all have different ideas of how to get there.
We might all agree on the final destination when we get in the car but each passenger is likely to have a different idea on how to reach that destination and the roads to take.
Therefore we need to communicate the direction and get feedback on how to get there.
Clear, consistent, transparent communication is needed with two-way communication channels to get feedback and ideas on how to change. It is often front-line staff that are closest to the action and will know what will and won’t work in practice.
It is about establishing a sense of inclusion across the entire organisation.
There may be a sense that having to include everyone is going to make the change take much longer. However, without inclusion the change is likely to fail and result in increased costs and additional time to start all over again.
You can read my post on communication and organisational change here.
Identify the resisters and get them on-board. Listen to their objections and address them. This engagement establishes a sense of trust and is also an opportunity to restate the need for the change.
Often the resisters can convey their objections in a highly vocal manner giving them high visibility amongst their peers. So getting these resisters on board can relay a very powerful message to their colleagues.
Read why resistance to change can be a good thing!
If you can turn the resisters into change champions that is even better!
Establish a network of change champions to help lead the change.
Select individuals who are trusted and respected by their peers and seen as a ‘go-to’ person. The relationship between change champions and the rest of the organisation is most effective when based on trust and respect rather than formal authority.
Change champions need to be well connected outside of their own team and able to build strong relationships. Successful change champions are those who have large networks across disconnected groups.
Read more about change champions.
The Right Tools for the Job
One of the worst things that can be done is to ask employees to change their working practices, processes or procedures, behaviours, roles and responsibilities etc. but not give them the tools to do this effectively.
That oversight speaks volumes and says that the organisation does not truly support the change.
Ensure that employees have the supporting tools they need to successfully carry out the change. If the change is an improvement in resolution of customer issues, ensure the supporting service management technology is in place to enable this.
But don’t forget to provide training!
Again, not providing time or budget for training sends a strong negative message. The cost saving by not providing training will be dwarfed by the cost of unused tools and failed change.
We need to provide the right tools and the right training to enable people to lead change.
‘Ownership’ or ‘empowerment’ are widely used terms that often have little or no substance behind them.
Teams need to feel that they have autonomy to implement and lead change. This is hard for command-and-control type leaders. But teams need to feel able to innovate and understand that is ok to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.
As long as the direction is clear, teams should be allowed to determine how they reach it.
Change needs to be led from the top but its success will depend on everyone feeling engaged, empowered, enabled and equipped to lead the change.