Last updated on August 23, 2022
Alex is a Senior Director for a large Utility company and has been asked to lead a strategic initiative that if done right, could lead to exponential growth and significant improvement to its customer service organization. These types of projects have not been too successful in the past, but she knows exactly why: there was no focus on organizational change management.
Alex has been doing her homework and found that according to many studies across various industries and countries, change initiatives fail 70% of the time. Surprisingly, this metric from the Harvard Business Review article, Cracking the Code of Change, has remained status quo for several years. This time would be different according to Alex. She tagged a project manager, Jesse who could do both – manage the project and the change. You see, just like project tasks, there are integrated change management tasks as well, and you just need someone like Jesse, a high performer and rising star in the organization, to steady the ship and keep the project under control. Right? Well, not exactly.
When I started out in my consulting career some 20 years ago, organizational change management (OCM) was a hard sell for many clients. Many would tell me, “We will have our project manager and team leads to communicate and do the training. So, we have change covered and do not need any extra help.” Fast forward to 2021, many clients are learning the power of OCM – and that it’s not just communication and training. Executives, Directors, Managers and other leaders across organizations are finally realizing the importance of managing change and the impact it has in preparing employees for adopting change when deploying successful projects. This is great, as many sponsors of change initiatives are budgeting appropriately and tagging employees to manage them. However, managing change is different than leading it, and companies are still failing when it comes to the execution of that change.
The key ingredient that is missing when it comes to a holistic change solution is change leadership. Let’s walk through how we can help Alex and Jesse understand change leadership and how this awareness could put you in the 30% of successful change initiatives.
The Difference Between Change Management and Change Leadership
First, it’s important to know that there is a difference between organizational change management and change leadership. Organizational change management is the process and set of tools necessary to take organizations and impacted stakeholders through preparing for, navigating, and sustaining change by establishing and executing an approach to minimize disruption and get to a higher level of productivity and morale as quickly as possible.
As world renowned change expert John Kotter puts it in this 2011 (yet still relevant) Forbes article, change leadership “is putting an engine on the whole change process and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently.” Change leadership focuses on the leadership activities that will take the “human element” of change into account and can be thought of as a subset of OCM that takes it to the next level of success. It focuses on the behavioral component of stakeholder change acceptance as well as resistance by promoting urgency, clear vision, communication and sponsorship and a bought-in team to carry out the change.
Sendero aligns our change leadership approach on Kotter’s principles, especially when it comes to his 8 steps where change leadership is necessary. In simplistic terms, the graphic above highlights some of the key differences between change management and change leadership.