It’s a myth that successful change is imposed from the top down. It’s a myth that employees in non-leadership roles don’t know enough about the organization to propose worthwhile changes. It’s a myth that leadership bears full responsibility for failed change efforts.
According to Harvard ManageMentor, common misconceptions such as these can plague a change effort before it even begins. It’s true that leadership must be open to change, and in most cases spearhead change efforts, but it’s equally important to recognize that people at all levels can be change agents. Just the act of listening to perspectives across levels of seniority is among the most important processes of change management.
If change could be realized through the efforts of a single person, there would be little need for change management. Leaders play a significant role, but the granular responsibilities that come with change often fall to rank-and-file workers. Should a change effort fail to take hold, trying to learn from mistakes will always be a better reaction than assigning blame.
But if managers shouldn’t make themselves the sole agents of change, what can they do to spark change in others? The opening move should be to foster an environment that values smart change and pushes team members to view themselves as problem solvers. Once established, managers can then formalize the process for turning ideas into tangible change using the following steps:
Create a document detailing why a certain change is needed. Be sure to assess the impact of continuing business as usual versus business after a successfully realized change. This analysis is critical to understanding whether the proposed change is worth the investment.
With definitions in hand, it’s time to draw up a blueprint. Here, the big idea is reduced to small components. What exactly needs to happen to complete the big picture? Equally important is determining what doesn’t need to happen.
Begin to pivot away from business as usual. Roll out the changes to affected individuals (who should have been interviewed during the design process). Be sure to experiment with prototypes and identify areas that require additional skills or support to take hold.
Measure the reality of change against the original design and diagnosis. Consider both hard outcomes like spreadsheet figures and softer outcomes such as employee engagement and collaboration opportunities. View this stage not as a linear destination but the return of a loop that restarts as soon as someone thinks up a new idea.