What does it take to lead change in today’s modern workplace? I remember my first time ever being trained to lead change while serving in the military. Everything focused on ensuring each step was detailed in a tab-heavy Excel spreadsheet. Then we’d roll out the plan, and everyone was expected to fall into line, follow orders and meet all agreed-upon deadlines. In that environment and at that time, that approach worked surprisingly well.
Flash forward to working in a corporate environment, and I found myself sitting in my office, pulling my hair out and clutching my Excel spreadsheet like a security blanket I had long outgrown but refused to give up. A few key things were very different. People no longer did what the boss said simply because they said it. Two, people didn’t really care what was on that spreadsheet. And finally, just because people said they were bought into something didn’t mean they would actually do anything. It was a harsh reality check for me, to say the least.
Over the past decade, what I’ve seen unfold is an even more significant departure from command and control effectiveness in all business areas. For me, the harsh lesson was that command and control were no longer kings regarding change management. Though very few of my clients had experienced the level of control I saw in the military, they still came from that top-down ideology where what one person at the top might say would be enough to make things happen.
Here are some key lessons I’ve picked up while leading various change initiatives and speaking to leaders who have tackled their share of significant shifts in how their organizations operated: