If you are asked to step onto the speeding train of a major change initiative that is at risk of derailing, how do you get it back on track and help the project team understand how it got to this point, and how to make it better? This is tough at best, especially when those currently on the train, or worse, running the train, are afraid of looking bad, are overwhelmed, and are actually in need to major help. This is even tougher when the project is transformational, and there is no linear track to count on about three stations ahead…
The world needs better change leaders, no if’s, and’s or but’s, especially for the myriad transformational changes our organizations face. That includes project leaders, change consultants, project team members, and executive sponsors. And we have the responsibility–no, the obligation!– to help turn leaders and managers into better change leaders—while the train is speeding ahead. Getting change leaders to engage in corrective project work is essential, and so is getting their agreement to proactively learn how to do it better. They have to acknowledge the need to get better and be willing to do it. Their success depends on it.
This requires two things of us change consultants…consulting to the organizational change project, and teaching while we consult. That means making explicit the “what,” “why,” and “how” of what we are recommending so that our clients can learn from it. Sometimes we need to do this coaching on the run when the train is in full gear, and hopefully, some of it can happen when the train makes a stop at an important station and you can talk about where you have just come from, where the train needs to go from here, and how to get it there…especially if the effort does not have the security of pre-set train tracks that will take you where you want to go. How to create the new tracks in real time is a part of what we need to teach.
Are you up for it? Do you set up your work in this way? Are you a “project fixer,” a “teacher,” or both?
If both, what do you use to help fortify your teaching, coaching, mentoring on the job?
For me, change process models help, but can be too intellectual unless I make them absolutely relevant to the work that is needed. Tools help, since the client can rely on them for this work and the next. Us modeling the thinking and behavior that is needed, what questions to ask, how to intervene with the client, especially executives, is essential. And talking about mindsets, style and quality of relationship is also in game, since the client has as much to gain from building their own personal toolkit as well as their organizational toolkit for how to lead change.
What do you use? What do you find most helpful to ensure you are leaving a legacy behind of stronger change leadership?