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Leading Multiple Changes At The Same Time

If it ever happens at all, it is very rare that in business we are only dealing with one change at a time. Our jobs as managers and leaders are to continually improve performance, even when we are not in the middle of change projects or a rapidly changing operating environment.

So what are the implications for us as leaders of dealing with lots of different changes all at once? 

In this episode, we are going to dig into that and I'm going to share two ways to check you are doing the right things on the right projects without being totally overwhelmed as you take your team and your business through multiple overlapping waves of change. 

So are you ready? It's time to get curious and make some choices about how you can lead your team and your business through multiples changes at the same time. 

Are you trying to lead too many changes at once?

Even before we started having to react to an operating environment that was changing as rapidly as ours is currently, almost every organisation I spoke to, either large or small was attempting to complete more change initiatives and projects than they could really cope with.

Project teams, change leads and PMO's were working flat out trying to manage and embed huge change agendas while those impacted by the changes hoped that if they kept their heads down for long enough this wave of change would wash over them as the next change initiative of the month would be announced by the leadership team and they could keep doing what they had always done and be safe for a little while longer.

The global pandemic has given us an opportunity to reassess which of these changes we are going to focus on and where our organisational priorities are.

That also means we as leaders have a wonderful opportunity to reassess how we are leading each of these changes and making sure that they are embedded in our teams.

There is a lot we need to do to lead change, it took me two episodes to outline it all, and you can find those things in episodes 3 and 4 if you want to go back and listen again. 

And if you are wondering how on earth you are meant to do all that for every single change initiative and project, I have some good news that I hope will help you.

There are two sets of things that are going to make it all much easier to juggle.

Group the changes around your organisational goals and objectives.

Every change initiative and programme should be linked to an organisational goal, so the first thing you can to do simplify everything for yourself and your team is to group the changes you are facing together around these strategic objectives.

This will help you with the critical task of explaining the reason why each change needs to happen, and the difference it's going to make.

Providing this context and helping your team make the connections between the different change initiatives will create a pull towards how things are going to be after the changes and reduce any sense of overwhelm your team are experiencing.

It's also going to make the number of things you need to communicate to your team about more manageable and easier for them to understand since its all going to be themed.

Not all changes are equal - know your role in each

The second thing you can do is to remember that not every change initiative is equal - and that what you personally need to deliver for each is different. While you will be leading your team through every change the role you are playing in change project itself can and will differ.

Working with Laura Handley, the change leader at Red Wizzard Consulting, we articulated six different roles involved with making change happen. As a leader, you are going to be filling different roles in different change initiatives.

By getting really clear which role you are playing in a particular change you can make sure you are focusing your efforts where they are going to be making the biggest impact, doing the right things on the right projects.

The 6 roles in successful change

So what are those 6 roles and what are the key things you need to do for each?

Firstly we have the Initiator of Change - these are the people who set the change in motion. These are usually, but not always relatively senior people in the organisation and they need to be active, visible and engaged throughout the project. They need to model the future way and talk about how and why adopting this change matters. They need to acknowledge that this change is hard for people and create an environment where people can have two-way conversation about it, where they can share their concerns and have a voice.

Next, we have the Leader of the Change - this is someone who is responsible for inspiring and developing the change. They might come from any part of the organisation, and they need to shape and communicate the plan so everyone can understand it. They need to integrate planning and project processes with the people side of change and make sure that people are given the time and resources they need to adapt and learn new ways of working.

The project also needs Promoters - people who promote and encourage the change but may not be making it happen themselves. These cheerleaders cheer for the people making the change happen and for those who are impacted by the change. As a leader, for a project you don't have another of these roles in you should always be a promoter. You should be using your influence to help with anything and anyone that is either resisting or slowing down the change. You are also there to support the project leaders, initiators and facilitators, providing coaching and a high level of visible support.

Now the project has a team of people willing it to happen and the encouraging the changes to be adopted it also needs a Facilitator - someone who is going to lead the work to actually make the change happen. The could be a specialist Project Manager or PMO or it could be any other manager within the business. As well as coordinating getting the work done the facilitator has a key role to play as a leader of these changes and needs to do everything a leader does to lead change.

Next, we have the project Contributors - these are the people doing the work on the project and promoting it with those who are impacted by the change. They need to be building inclusive relationships and communicating about the change in a way that is meaningful to the person they are talking to, so for example on an IT project not giving every technical detail but making sure the users know how to operate the system - if we were talking about cars, they may be the design engineers and they need to know the different levels of detail to share with a mechanic and with someone driving the car.

And finally, we have the Adoptors of change - the people the change is happening to. Their role is to get excited about the change and to use the new ways of doing things. We may be leaders, but there will also be times when we are Adoptors and we need to show people around us how it's done. No complaining in public about the change or how difficult it's making your world right now - instead its time to step up and lead showing your team what is expected and focusing on the positives.

Change takes a team

As you can see, effective change is a team effort and everyone needs to play their part - not just as leaders.

As leaders, it is our job to work out which roles we are playing in which changes and to help our teams do the same. Then we need to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them in that role.

To help with that we have put together a much more detailed set of outlines which we are happy to share with you. 

If you and the other leaders in your organisation can get clear about what role each of you is playing when you are starting a change initiative, I believe that as a team you will achieve your change objectives faster and with less friction along the way, especially when you are able to be equally clear with your team members so they know precisely what they need to do too.

So if you are curious about how you can do that do get in touch and either Laura or I will take you through it and how you can use this concept in your business.

Summary & Taking Action

So in this episode, we have talked about how you can approach leading multiple simultaneous changes by grouping the change initiatives around your organisations' strategic objectives so that it's easier to see how they all fit together and easier to communicate the future vision to your team.

We also talked about getting clear about what your role is in each particular change so you can focus your efforts on where they are going to have the biggest impact and make change happen faster and with less friction and overlap with different areas of your organisation.

Spending time on setting this up right for each change programme is time well invested and will mark you out as a leader who understands how to make change happen in your organisation.

The things I share in this podcast are based on my experiences, and some will be more relevant to you than others. It’s up to you to choose what you do with the information I’ve shared. That’s what being a Curious Choice Leader is all about, getting curious about your situation and then making choices that are right for you and your business.

So the question I would like to leave you with is,

What role are you playing in each of the changes and projects that are currently happening in your organisation?