Leading Change Is a Full-Time Job

At a recent speech to a PRSA audience, Jack Modzelewski discussed how leaders of modern corporations and other organizations face constant challenges arising from simultaneous change, including: global competition, five-generation work forces,  rapidly evolving business and communication technology, sector and category-defining crises, and activism both aimed at or led by companies. The speech was titled “Leading Change is a Full-time Job.” Jack, who is global president of business development & partnerships at FleishmanHillard, briefly summarized the agency’s experience in collaborating with clients on change programs.  He encouraged communications professionals to be difference-makers who can be architects of platforms and programs to lead change.

Jack told the audience that a transformational change leader must first examine the present state of the organization and then express how it needs to be ideally positioned to perform most effectively in the future. He said: “You need to examine the enterprise’s strengths and weaknesses. Then propose necessary structural changes that will best enable the change you seek. You should define a unifying purpose and create with organizational leaders – and with representative employee input – the new goals and strategies of the change campaign. All of this has to work within the culture you have now but with foresight about the cultural changes you are trying to direct.

The plan needs leaders to drive it, and who may not necessarily be functional or business unit leaders but others chosen because of their unique skills to both shape and implement the plan. Key performance metrics will define success and accountability, especially when measured by internal enthusiasm for the change program and customer experience resulting from it. You have to measure mindset and actual behavior changes impacting performance.

Pressure testing the plan in smaller groups is also advisable before rolling it out across the organization. Leadership by example is crucial, and communication should be frequent, interactive, and feature compelling stories of progress being scaled across the enterprise. Rewards and promotions must be aligned to financial and operational performance and also to encourage the most desirable cultural behaviors. And to quote a CEO I once worked closely with on his organization’s change campaign, the most important six words in a transformational change campaign arefollow up, follow up, follow up.”