Effective Change Requires a School of Followers

one red fish is leading a school of fish colored blue

When you are about to launch an organizational change initiative, be aware that, yes, you need an effective leader but you also need a bunch of other stakeholders who are committed to making the change succeed.

Sure, you may start with one or two executives who recognize that change needs to occur for the future health of the organization. But unless they can harness the energy and commitment of other key stakeholders throughout the company, the transformation is likely to fail.

The number of stakeholders who need to be onboard for effective change varies with the size of the organization, the scope and complexity of the change, and the length of time required. A small company that envisions a rather short-term change can manage with just a few key players on the change team as long as the message cascades throughout the organization and is agreed-upon and supported. In large organizations, however, the coalition for change may need to grow to 20-plus and include a variety of adherents. Internal supporters should include employees with a diversity of relationships, knowledge, expertise, roles, reputation and titles. External supporters are also often critical. Consider recruiting the following to your cause: board members, key customers or even an influential union leader.

How can you pull these organizational change followers together and gain their support and commitment? Many companies organize retreats that can last several days. Along with persuading the group that the change is necessary, the time together provides an opportunity to create a cohesive change team…to build trust, to set common goals, to agree upon roles and responsibilities, to set targets and ways to hold team members accountable, and to put together a communication plan that will keep everyone fully informed of progress.

Full-fledged corporate change is never easy. You need to recognize that it will take time, patience, perseverance and a team that is committed for the long haul. Be thoughtful about who you invite to join your team. Your initiative will sink or swim according to their level of influence, commitment, desire and support.

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