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Lessons for leaders in implementing change

Digital disruption is changing today’s business landscape at an unprecedented speed. Leaders guiding their companies sustainably into the future must first look at the implementation of successful business transformation.

leaders implementing change

The pace of technological change is unprecedented. Breakthroughs such as big data, IoT and artificial intelligence are disrupting traditional business models while creating new ones. And leaders are having to upgrade their capabilities all the time in response to this.

So, what are the capabilities that will count beyond today and take a leader well into the future? Assimilating data, agile decision-making and influencing skills are all key for the modern leader. How about implementation? As a capability, it’s less talked about – however, a leader’s ability to implement and manage transformative change is now more crucial than ever.

Implementation – the skill to drive transformative outcomes – is imperative to future success. It is the application of your skills to influence and change behaviours for the better as you implement new strategies, technologies, systems, processes or ideas. Much like a road trip, with well-planned execution, transformation programs can be highly successful, inspiring, fulfilling and incredibly worthwhile.

Historically, the challenge for many leaders has been the impression that implementing transformation is highly complex. Very few have repeatedly led transformation efforts. But successful transformation doesn’t need to be elusive. When leaders have the right implementation skills and tools, transformation programs succeed.

It starts with communicating your future vision at organisation level, so that people understand the road ahead and have confidence in the journey – but that’s not enough. Leaders must also develop a clear micro vision – one that talks directly to those responsible for the implementation of transformation. Getting your aspiration right is only half the story – the other half is a solid implementation plan.

Here are 4 key lessons for leaders when implementing transformation:

  1. Map out your transformation road trip.

    First, define a bold yet concise picture of your destination and the road trip required. Following this, rapidly engage those making the trip by collaborating on which route to take. Make sure you include the individual road trips necessary for each person, which roads to take, the pit stops and how to manage the occasional flat tyre. The plan or ‘map’ needs to equip your teams for navigating the roads ahead, so they know what to anticipate and how to deal with any challenges.

    When you involve people in mapping the journey required, you also show that you are willing to accept and action their input. A great transformation program sets clear expectations on execution and outcomes while defining who plays what role and how things will happen. It breaks the journey into bite-sized sprints in order to easily engage people and enable them to see clear steps. It becomes a series of smaller, manageable trips, to cross the finish line.

  2. Don’t underestimate the role of confidence and its power to drive success.

    Confidence makes or breaks the implementation transformation program. When you commence with confidence, you give others assurance that you are the right leader for the job, and in turn, their own confidence is built and they are more likely to succeed.

    Using the road trip analogy, implementing transformational change is all about having the confidence to start the car, exit the driveway, drive the course – often in changing conditions – and finish the trip. If people lack confidence in themselves, the leadership team or the business, it’s difficult for them to embark on a journey.

  3. Define the size of the prize and the distance to the finish line.

    Your roadmap must include your future vision as well as the benefits of getting there and the milestones along the way. It is key to measure progress at precise times to know you are on schedule, assess progress, and know when to celebrate the wins.

    Without breaking up your journey into road trips, you risk losing your people – they get tired and lost. Stress sets in before you even complete the first leg. Confidence wanes. You must routinely remind everyone along the way the reasons for being on the road trip in the first place and the progress they’re making.

  4. Let them drive… but support them along the way.

    When you learn to drive, you might read the driver’s manual, but you really learn through the application of driving. If you made a mistake it was OK, there was a safety net – an instructor. When implementing transformation, you don’t throw people into the driver’s seat alone and without support. Coaching and support are key to enabling people to finish the trip, and a crucial yet overlooked requirement for success.

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