Executives: It's time to change the way you approach change

Peter Taylor
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It isn't that change has not been achieved in the past – it obviously has.

You wouldn’t be here now, where you are, at work, doing whatever it is that you are doing, if change, and significant change at that, had not been achieved.

But life is getting more complicated and two things are impacting businesses around the world. More and more “change” is happening inside organisations. This can be strategic change (chasing new markets, adding new products), or it can be change driven through regulatory demand – plus some change happening purely through the desire of new executives. But now sprinkle some accelerant onto this pile of change and light that match of expectation. Faster, faster, faster is the executive cry – more from less, stoke the fires, team, and make it happen.

Why change how you change?

There is no hiding away from change. But change must be managed and it must be controlled. Toba Beta said: “when you are out of control, someone is ready to take over”. And that is precisely what it seems is happening a lot in corporate world.

Consider this for example. A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com, which interviewed more than 1,000 board members from 286 public and private organisations that fired or otherwise forced out their chief executive, found that the number one reason these leaders got fired was mismanaging change.

So, you are now part of a world where executives get fired on a regular basis for how they handle change, while change is both increasing and expected to happen faster and more efficiently.

At the personal level, the consequences of not being an effective leader of an organisation who both drives and manages change is fairly obvious from the above study.

The impact on the organisation itself can also be significant, with huge amounts of money and time invested in major change programmes that are not only failing to deliver the expected business benefits, but are distracting that same organisation from its normal operations.

Change is inevitable but not without its risks; it needs to be taken seriously. This is why it is time for c-level executives to change their approach to change – failure to do so will result in big problems for them as individuals, and for the organisations that they lead from the top.

How to change how you change

Invest in five key elements: the right portfolio dashboard to get that accurate view from the top; professional executive change sponsorship to get true top-down ownership; a chief projects officer to direct the overall change programme; the means to know the true status of your financial commitment in change to ultimately know, accurately, how it is all progressing; and finally invest in the project leadership capability and competence within the organisation to provide the right partnership for those executive sponsors.

These five elements provide the perfect foundation for change success – and (probably) will help extend that c-level career.

Peter Taylor is a project management office expert, and the author of How to get fired at C-level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all.

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