If you’ve been following this series of blog entries, you already know that I’m skimming the surface of what is a very broad topic. The initial blog can be found here - it’s a quick read and will give you a basic understanding of I’m about to discuss in more detail.
“Covert Operations” is merely one of the modes that Change Agents may find themselves operating under when it comes to organizational change. This is an environment in which there is no significa
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nt pressure or stimulus being put on the organization and management generally has little interest in changing the status quo. In fact, in this state, you’ll probably find that some individuals are strongly resistant to changing anything. After all, why fix what doesn’t seem broken? It all sounds all well and good, except that it lulls organizations into a false sense of security and certainly doesn’t do anything to prepare folks for when things do get tough. In fact, it’s probably the best time to really take a close look at how things are running with minimal risk. Unfortunately, most organizations never seize this opportunity.
You will find individuals in such an organization that do see a need for change, often lower-level employees and junior managers. Without the direct support of more senior leadership, these individuals either become frustrated or secretly pursue their objectives regardless of senior management support. Often you’ll find a small team of like minded individuals working together who share the same goals.
In general, the risk of allowing the organization to wallow in this environment is low, though there are certainly some drawbacks and missed opportunities.
- Change that occurs “under the radar” of senior leadership may not be in alignment with the overall vision for the organization, reducing efficiency and potential wasting valuable resources.
- Change, even positive change, is extremely slow and any resulting value is likewise diminished.
- Employees pursuing these changes often become extremely frustrated at their inability to make any significant progress. Ironically, it’s often these very individuals who have the most to contribute to the organization in terms of innovation.
- The “under belly” of the organization can become soft and complacent – leaving the company further exposed to competitive threats.
So, what do you do?
The answer somewhat depends on your role in the organization. If you’re one of folks pushing change without much support, you primary objective is going to be to seek out a sponsor – preferable someone in the senior leadership ranks. You’re going to need to do some homework and really sell your idea. At the same time, you’re going to want to collect like minded individuals around you that share your goals. Ultimately, you want to start a Grass Roots effort with executive sponsorship. I won’t like to you – it’s a hard road and a lot of sloshing through the swamp but be persistent.
If you happen to be a senior level manager, then you’ll have a lot more control over the outcome. First of all, you want to seek out and encourage employees to bring forth their ideas. Proactively look for good ideas and put your weight behind them. Openly praise individuals and teams who make positive change -- to both their peers and your superiors. You’ll learn that successful change management involves a lot of marketing and salesmanship. In the final installment of this series on change management, I’ll also talk a bit about how to change the stimulus being applied to the organization – probably one of the most effective ways to move things along.