5 Senior Leadership Team Must-Do’s For Successful Organizational Change

Mike Girdler

Engaged senior leadership team = organizational change success I recently read a stat in the Harvard Business Review noting that 70% of change initiatives fail. …

Engaged senior leadership team = organizational change success

Change ManagementI recently read a stat in the Harvard Business Review noting that 70% of change initiatives fail. I can only imagine the impact of these failures on an organization – wasted human and financial resources, reduced morale, and lost opportunities. For successful organizational change the key is an engaged senior leadership team. Here are 5 senior leadership team “must-dos” for any organization undertaking organizational change initiatives.

# 1 – Understand the benefit and buy into it.

For the change to be successful, the senior leadership team needs to understand the business rationale for the change, in its entirety and how undergoing the change will benefit the organization. Each member of the senior leadership team must personally believe in the value of the change and be completely committed and bought into it.

# 2 – The change effort maintains its priority.

This can be a morale crusher for any organization. Senior leadership personnel trumpet the benefits of the change and how it will move the organization forward, only to see it re-prioritized to the point where the change doesn’t happen or doesn’t achieve what it was set out to. Successful change requires the senior leadership team, even in the face of competing priorities, maintain the change as a priority throughout the life of the effort.

# 3 – Symbol for the change effort.

Each member of the senior leadership team need to be recognized as being synonymous with the change effort. They need to be seen as the loudest cheerleaders and champions for the change. To achieve this, it means the team must make themselves available – to those in their own functional area, and the organization as a whole. There needs to be time built into schedules for touch points within the leadership team, with employees – town halls, informal Q&A’s, and meetings within operational teams to ensure everyone sees, and understands, the commitment to the change.

# 4 – Direct reports understand and champion the change.

Change efforts can be derailed very quickly if the senior leadership team’s direct management reports fail to see the significance of the change, don’t buy into it and relegate it to a lower priority. The senior leadership team needs to ensure the understanding and buy in is woven throughout the levels of management. The senior leadership team can’t be in all places at all times and it’s up to their direct reports to be able to champion the cause and deal effectively with employees questions, resistance, or concerns as they arise.

#5 – Celebrate “quick wins” and milestones.

For change success, gaining momentum is a great way to illustrate the change plan is working. So, the senior leadership team need to acknowledge quick wins and the efforts from those in delivering them, for the organization as a whole, and within their own functional departments. Take the time to celebrate successes and the reaching of milestones. Make people feel good about the change.

Organizational change is never easy, and the majority of initiatives fail. To experience successful organizational change, it’s incumbent upon the senior leadership team to understand the need and rationale to make the change, to maintain it as a priority, to champion the change, ensure all levels of management are on board, and celebrate progress.


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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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