Change and Leadership

Change is nothing new to leaders or to their organizations. Around 500BC, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that: “You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.” He was one of the first Western philosophers to address the idea that the universe is in a constant state of flux.

As we move further from the “stable state,” effective change leadership has become a challenging calling. Today in the language of business, organizations, academia, and consultancy, the word “change” has come to mean different things to different people. We need to define “change leadership” in a way that establishes a congruence between leadership and the benefits of the change being implemented; and articulate it properly. Change can refer to any of the following and more:

  • External changes in the market/industry, technology, customers, competitors, social, political and natural environment;
  • Internal changes that determine how the organization reacts and adapts to the external changes at great speed;
  • Top-down programs such as business process reengineering, restructuring, cultural change, for example, and
  • Business transformation programs which can be described as comprehensive organizational initiatives.

It can also be a combination of all the above.

Major change is those situations in which corporate performance requires most people throughout the organization to learn new behaviors and skills. These new skills must add up to a competitive advantage for the enterprise, allowing it to produce better and better performance in shorter and shorter time frames.

Change leadership can be defined as altering groups to the need for changes in the way things are done; mobilizing and energizing groups; and tapping fully into the potential and the capacity of the organization. It involves taking the responsibility to champion the change initiative and effort through building and maintaining commitment and support. The situation determines who emerges as the leader and what style of  leadership he or she has to adopt. The situation will also determine the core skills needed to lead in that particular situation. Therefore, one can no longer discuss leadership in general terms.

The leader and the style of leadership required in a stable organization will differ from that which is required in an organization under threat. This is because leadership styles and behaviors are likely to be critical in times of threats.

The qualities, characteristics, and skills required in a leader are determined to a large extent by the demands of the situation in which he or she is to function as a leader.

In any major change program, there are many leaders because there are many people at many levels in the hierarchy who play different critical roles during the change process, including the CEO. In modern complex organizations, the notion of an ill-seeing, all knowing leader is unrealistic. Instead, different individuals assume leadership in situations where they have a unique competence or accountability. All the non-CEO change leaders are every bit as essential to creating high-performing organizations as are the more visible and dynamic executive leaders. In essence, the change leader could be the CEO, a line leader, internal network, or a change community.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, Line of Sight

New Product Process

New products actually build up the way rivers do. Great rivers are systems with tributaries that have tributaries. Goods that appear complex are just collections of metal shapes, packaging material, fluids, prices, and so on. A good anology is the production of automobiles, with a main assembly line supported by scores of subsidiary assembly lines scattered around the world, each of which makes a part that goes into another part that ultimately goes into a car in that final assembly line.

 If you can imagine the quality control people in auto parts plants evaluating each part before releasing it to the next step, you have the idea of a new product evaluation system. The new product appears first as an idea, a concept in words or pictures, and we evaluate that first. As workers turn the concept into a formed process of metal, or software, or a new factory site preparation service, that good or service is then evaluated. When a market planner puts together a marketing plan, its parts are evaluated separately (just as minor car parts are) and then evaluated again in total, after it is added to the product.

 The fact that we evaluate the product and its marketing plan as separate and divisible pieces is what lets us telescope the development process into shorter periods of time. There was an era when we went through a new product’s development step by step, nothing “ahead of its time.” But today we may be working on a package before we actually have finished product, we may be filming part of a commercial before the trademark has been approved and finalized.

 This sometimes causes some backtracking, but the cost of that is less than the costs of a delayed introduction. It does require, however, that we have thought through carefully the item’s overall development needs—and, which of those needs are crucial, and which not crucial. Any evaluation system must cover the crucial ones.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, Line of Sight