Learning to Change: Get Results + Develop Agile Leaders

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April 10, 2017 | Barbara Trautlein | HCI

Amy is the SVP of HR for a large manufacturing organization that has grown significantly by acquisition in the last decade.  She reports directly to the CEO and sits on the Executive Council – a powerful position of influence.  So, why is Amy so frustrated? 

During today’s Executive Council meeting, many problems, some of which were repeats, were raised by the group:

  • We acquired some of our divisions years ago, yet they still operate like independent companies, some even overtly compete with each other.  Where’s the synergy?
  • We still have legacy systems in each of the acquired businesses.  Moving to a unified ERP system has been painful, and our business processes are still far from consistent.  When will we realize the efficiencies we hoped to achieve?
  • With all of our internal problems, we’re missing the boat on what competitors are doing to connect with customers.  We’re losing customers because we’re lagging in adopting the digital technologies we need to serve the new generation of buyers.  What’s our plan to stay relevant in the marketplace?

Amy knows there’s no magical answer, no one-size-fits-all solution to the myriad of problems in her organization.  Amy also knows that the flipside of every problem is opportunity. 

What’s underlying each of the problems Amy’s organization is facing?  Change!

  • Changing from separate businesses to one company
  • Changing from legacy systems to consistent technologies and business processes
  • Changing from outmoded methods to digitally-enhanced ways to connect and serve customers

Each of these problems needs to be tackled with very specific action plans.  There is also the opportunity to build an enabling foundation to support solving each problem, and all the others that will inevitably follow. That foundation is learning to change.

Each change problem facing your organization is a gold mine of capacity-building opportunities.  Changing the mindset from “problem to be solved” to both “problem to be solved” AND “learning opportunity to be leveraged” opens up the possibility for new leadership behaviors that are the hallmark of genuine individual, team, and organizational agility. 

Let’s explore how Amy can spark meaningful dialogue with her Executive Council colleagues:

Problem to be Solved Learning Opportunity to be Leveraged
Changing from separate businesses to one company
  • How can we transform our quarterly Executive Council meetings from “death-by-PowerPoint” information-sharing sessions to deep dialogue and joint action?
  • How can we start at the top and build our capabilities as leaders by investing in our own development as a team, to role model commitment to continuous improvement for the rest of the organization?
Changing from legacy systems to consistent technologies and business processes
  • How can we engage teams from across the enterprise to take on this challenge, promoting cross-functional and cross-facility collaboration? 
  • Can we exploit this important business need as a way to challenge and develop high potential staff, and as a way to cross-fertilize talent across geographies?
Changing from outmoded methods to digitally-enhanced ways to connect and serve customers
  • How can we bring together our best senior sales and customer service managers with our best and most tech-savvy junior professionals to create a new approach?
  • How can doing so promote a culture of leaders developing leaders, reverse mentoring, and generational awareness?

So much of leadership development remains above the neck, whereas with the constant buzz of change all around us in our organizations we have continual “pop-up learning labs” right in front of us all day, every day.  The time has never been better to capitalize on real time changes happening in your organization, to embed new routines and habits to develop leadership capabilities, to accelerate learning and radically upskill leaders at all levels.  As more and more organizations retool their approach to performance management, such an approach fits perfectly with the move toward continual real-time coaching conversations between managers and staff. 

HR and L&D professionals can help the organizations they serve reap huge dividends that will exponentially increase over time by constantly challenging leaders to ask themselves these questions:

  • How can we exploit a problem as a learning opportunity for ourselves?
  • How can we utilize a problem as a way to build the leadership capabilities of our high-potential talent and next generation of leaders? 
  • How can we re-conceptualize a problem into a mechanism for developing change leadership capacity for our organization, fostering an agile culture of continuous learning? 

HR and L&D professionals move beyond supporting the business strategy to driving the business strategy, and foster an agile, innovative culture and leaders.

Want to learn how one organization put these ideas into action, and the bottom-line results they achieved?  Read this case study!  For more information, visit www.changecatalysts.com.