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Four Steps for Senior Leaders to Effectively Lead Change through Organizational Development
The most important aspect of managing change is that senior leaders need to involve themselves wholeheartedly in the process itself. The famous organizational development expert and scholar, Roland Sullivan, says that leaders need to transform first and then mobilize the rest of the organization. By using the action research model and transforming the organization during the process of change, senior leaders can build positive energy around change and develop the required critical mass to drive change throughout the organization.

This article discusses the four steps senior leaders must follow to lead change effectively within their organizations and build a momentum behind it. Through participation and by-in of their teams, senior leaders are able to more effectively identify and plan the change, communicate the change, manage the change, and monitor the change for lasting and sustainable results.

Identify and plan the change
Senior leaders need to identify the change and how it will impact their organization.  The change needs to have an end goal of delighting the customer and whatever steps are taken should be in connection with this goal and the sustainability of the end result in mind.

Communicate the change
As mentioned earlier, senior leaders need to involve senior staff from the beginning in order to gain commitment. Senior leaders need to explain the change, its impact on the organization, and provide coaching to the senior staff to overcome any resistance to change.

Senior leaders need to share how the change will impact the work of the personnel involved and ask for feedback on how to make the transition easier. On the whole, it is important that those involved in the change effort take responsibility for the change by developing action plans and timelines once the initial buy-in is secured.

Manage the change
For change to be successful, the organization must try to regain stability and predictability as quickly as possible. Communicating with people during the change process helps them feel more secure and knowledgeable about the change. To this end, senior leaders must:

o   Communicate the facts and clarify issues clearly and quickly
o   Prepare materials explain how the changes will help meet the organization’s goals
o   Create a sense of urgency and communicate why the change is important
o   Establish a process to clear up the unknowns and rumors
o   Encourage managers and supervisors to hold face-to-face meetings with employees
o   Have meetings at least once a week including all members who will be impacted
o   Send a uniform message – prepare fact sheets with answers
o   Build momentum and peer pressure for change

Leaders must work on reducing change-related stress and resistance to change. To bring down the stress levels and enhance motivation among their ranks, jobs might need to be redesigned and performance goals improved. Addressing consequences, performance issues, attitude, morale, and employee dissatisfaction can help minimize resistance to the change effort. On the whole, the senior leadership should work with the senior staff to build trust and improve productivity and effectiveness. Communicating results to all, holding people accountable, tracking progress, and providing ongoing feedback are important aspects of building trust and are also at the heart of the action research process.

Monitor Results
Senior leaders need to monitor the success of the change process. To ensure sustainable change, leaders need to stay focused on the process until the change is anchored in the culture. Change must be monitored throughout its lifecycle, results must be tracked and monitored, records kept, and the effects and results of the new system tracked.  By conducting employee focus groups or small group meetings, informing managers of any findings so they can discuss those with employees, and anticipating and dealing with resistance, senior leaders can address issues quickly.

The key here is flexibility and senior leaders need to be willing to modify the process in the face of public opinion and evolving events. People should be shown compassion and allowed to go through the stages of change. Any stragglers can be helped to find another place to work and any key management personnel who show little willingness to accept change need to be evaluated with respect to whether they are a good fit for the organization. Organizations that set up early wins, publicize rewards and recognize productive employees for positive approaches and accomplishments have a very good chance of maintaining successful change.

By following the four steps of identifying and planning change, communicating it, managing it and monitoring it based upon action research principles, leaders will find it easier to bring about successful change within their organizations because the critical mass achieved due to their concerted and collaborative effort will build a momentum around it.