Creating change by focusing on behaviours
Successful change comes down to identifying the key behaviours that, if they occur reliably and regularly, indicate that a desired change has taken hold. A detailed, even granular, vision of the future can dramatically increase the odds of getting there. Abstract or ephemeral visions wrapped in corporate speak do not, according to Gregory Shea and Cassie Solomon in their book Leading Successful Change: 8 Keys to Making Change Work.
Most change efforts fail because the change objectives are too vague and abstract, or because leaders underestimate the power of the work environment to stall change. Accordingly, the authors’ change process focuses on behaviour to change the work environment. Specifically, there are two principles which drive a successful change process:
- Focus on the behaviours you want from people; and
- Design the work environment to foster those behaviours
The book recommends that you envision specific future scenes in order to identify the end-point behaviours that will be required if the change effort is to be successful. Once the behaviours have been identified, you then need to work out how to use the 8 levers of change to create the new behaviours, the levers being: organization, workplace design, task, people, rewards, measurement, information distribution, and decision allocation.
Although the authors do not refer to John Kotter’s book “Leading Change”, it is interesting to compare the two books. Kotter’s change process involves establishing a sense of urgency, developing and communicating a change vision, empowering employees, and generating short-term wins. It is not necessarily inconsistent with the authors’ change process; in my view both books provide valuable advice.
The book is quite short, which means that it is easy to read and does not contain unnecessary padding. Several examples are given, but in my opinion the book could have benefited from a more detailed consideration of each of the 8 change levers and a discussion of the circumstances in which each lever could be appropriately applied.