Insider Perspective / Columns

Change is the only constant—Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

Get ready for some very hard, yet rewarding, work. Being an agent of change for the better is always rewarding, no matter what the industry, profession or hobby. Anything worth accomplishing is going to take a lot of work—just look at what we have seen at the recent Summer Olympics.

Blessed are cultures that can successfully manage change in the midst of competing emergencies of attention, clash of ideas or opinions and even differing employee skill sets.

Change is happening all the time at an increasing rate. It has been said that 50 years ago, major changes would happen once, maybe twice, a year. Now, large changes seem to happen almost monthly. But really, doesn’t it feel more like daily?

So it’s more important than ever to understand what leaders and managers need to navigate change for the benefit of the goal, need or business. Business owners or managers can effectively create long-lasting, positive changes, but the fear of the unknown and daily emergencies undermine great ideas, effectively sending them to the garbage. Accomplishing change requires continual commitment to personal growth in the skill of leadership. Here are a few considerations:

Lead by example. As fast as change can occur in today’s world, there’s no time for lapses in leadership when problems occur, and they’re bound to. Without leadership, there is one guarantee: Change will not be sustainable or effective. So how does change best get accomplished personally, corporately or culturally?

There are many intelligent and clear descriptions of how effective change can occur, other than what’s here, and I hope this topic encourages readers to commit personal time to investigating them. The work required to make a change exists on many levels. There are fundamental characteristics that increase the chance for success. Starting with asking, “Why change?” which leads us to communicate a vision and a strategy for implementation, milestone awareness and accountability.

The Y’s of change. Before any change can take place, there must be clear reasons showing the need to change. There must be a sense of compulsion, seriousness or a need for a culture, team, family or society to change. The clearer this reason, the greater opportunity for managers and leaders to communicate effectively. Often, managers cannot effectively express the reason why a change must occur. In all seriousness, managers instead will require compulsion through fear, intimidation, frustration or other unprofessional manifestations of force. The best leaders work less at achieving “buy in” because of clear and urgent need.

Proper communication. Communication is vital throughout the change process. Proper communication will include clear plans to help eliminate fear, anxiety and overall uneasiness that change can bring. Leaders must minimize the yodeling, which is defined as a melody or refrain sung to meaningless syllables, with abrupt changes and reversing again. We are all guilty of mismanaging a situation through unclear expectation or reversing positions, which frustrates the direction of a team or group. Usually, this is caused by lack of clear vision.

Realistic goals. Instead, set a clearly communicated vision and realistic goals. It’s important to cast the vision and enlist the help of key “game changers” with the organization. Their early input will increase clarity and personal commitment as part of the team, and they can also help direct the vision to the target audience. Communicate plans and timelines by documenting and measuring them against realistic goals.

Core. Carefully weigh team structure and skill sets. When the team is chosen, value is added when each member understands his or her role and responsibility toward the desired outcome. When the group begins to ask questions, there may be an “odd person” out—someone who has a different way of looking at things. These people may be the most valuable members of the group. They also may not be the expected leaders, but consider key personnel in the group and what they bring to the team for success. Skill sets must be understood and analyzed for the specific organizational change or process change to be successful.

Celebrate successes. Personal benefit must be seen by the group or individuals through early celebrations of successes. Short yet immediate goals can be accomplished by realistic timelines and can be managed more carefully than the rest of the change process. When goals or milestones are achieved, recognize those achievements both individually and corporately.

Building. Finally, there must be a continual building on the successes realized through a milestone system that documents the effects of decisions and directions; aligns with the vision; modifies the vision as needed or if necessary; clarifies further goals; and further recognizes successes balanced with constructive criticism.

The group needs to find out what effective leadership can do to make improvements to the business and keep the culture viable and competitive. Some industries may not be tapping valuable methods to accomplish change fast enough and could be left behind. No matter the case, change is certain.  SF&WB


Author Todd Bruinsma is the director at Tennessee Bun Co., LLC, Nashville, focusing on business design and development. Bruinsma has served as general manager, a product manager, and a customer service manager at Pacific Northwest Baking Co., and a quality assurance manager at Pacific Northwest Baking Co., overseeing all aspects of bakery production.

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