What is change? Put simply, change is an effort to improve an organization in some way. This change could take the form of new processes and procedures, upgrades to a new system, changes to the organizational structure, or changes to roles and responsibilities.
Leaders understand that the only constant in today’s environment is...change! Leaders do not have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for change to wreak havoc on their organizations - a leader has to lead change.
A leader must anticipate change coming and act to position his organization to thrive in a new environment. Anticipating change is concerned with predicting what is to occur in your environment. One way to anticipate change is to closely monitor what’s happening in your own environment and then to compare it with what’s happening in similar environments at different locations. Another method is to study trends in your industry to see what inferences can be made from what you observe. Finally, a third way is to stay connected to your network of peers and other leaders to gather different perspectives.
Anticipating change is only the beginning, the next step requires the leader to prepare his organization for change - this entails communicating what the new reality is or will be and taking the necessary actions for the organization and its people to be ready before the change occurs.
During most change efforts, one of the leader’s most important responsibilities is to communicate early and often – the leader should share as much information as possible with the people who are most impacted. The majority of people will be interested in how this change affects them personally i.e., on a daily basis, what will change and what will remain the same? The leader should clearly articulate what the upcoming change means, from a macro and micro perspective, for personnel and for the organization as an entity.
Anticipating change and preparing for change is great - but leaders are in the business of leading change. This is a proactive stance that accurately identifies what and where the organization needs to be in 3, 5, or 10 years...and results in the leader carrying out the necessary change before it’s forced upon the organization. This way, the organization stays out in front of its competitors, negative trends, downturns, and environmental conditions.
Leaders seek to control the destiny of their organizations by leading change - they act upon the environment, instead of environmental conditions acting upon them. This allows leaders to stay ahead of change and to reduce the negative impact of fast-paced inevitable changes.
By leading change, the leader causes the organization to shape its future state instead of settling for leftovers as a result of having its head in the sand or being oblivious to what is going on in the environment.