The rise of technology has triggered monumental change in most industries. More than ever before, organizations today are having to adjust, sometimes dramatically, in order to compensate for the new demands and expectations of consumers. Unfortunately for these organizations, employees are all too often adverse to change, making the process of any significant change hard to navigate. “Change Management” and “Change Leadership,” therefore, are important concepts that are prevalent in today’s business world. While the idea of change management is well-established, change leadership is a fairly new concept that many organizations have yet to grasp. The merits and faults of both are still widely discussed in business world.
While the definitions for change management and change leadership vary slightly, most business leaders agree that the question of change management and change leadership is not an either/or. Both change management and change leadership play important roles in successfully implementing organizational change, and each has strengths where the other has weaknesses. In order to bring about effective organizational change, therefore, businesses should aim to employ both change management and change leadership.
Change management refers to a structure that controls organizational change and moves an organization from the status quo to a desired future state. Since its inception, countless change management theories and best practices have been documented, and the consulting industry has successfully established itself as an expert in change management execution. The change management force aims to orchestrate strategic change for a client organization, ensuring that the organization continues to run normally throughout the change. While change management has proven effective for small-scale change, permanent, deep-seated, and large-scale change has proved a challenge. To better understand why change management faces this difficulty, let’s take a look at the both the pros and the cons of change management.
External Influence: Organizations that bring in an external consultant to implement change management have the advantage of external influence. Because they are external, consultants can offer expertise and a fresh perspective around how to best handle the change. Moreover, consultants can more easily overcome political and cultural barriers that may inhibit change, since they are not invested in the organization’s culture. Change management implemented by an internal task force misses these advantages, but even a fully-empowered internal force can take a step back and approach the problem from a somewhat external perspective.
Orchestrating Change:The change management force monitors the execution of the change, ensuring that the necessary processes are in place and that no barriers arise to inhibit the change. The most effective change management forces will gather organizational intelligence to better understand the way the company functions. This intelligence will inform them as to how to implement change most effectively, potential barriers that could arise, and how to keep the organization functioning normally with minimal distraction during the change.
Adapting to Change:Because change management controls the speed of the change and the manner in which it is executed, the change management force can help the organization adapt to the change. It can ensure change happens at the right pace and that systems and processes adapt as the change proceeds.
No Buy-in:Because change management normally is not executed directly by leaders from the top of the organization, it can be difficult for the change management force to get organization-wide buy-in. In order for the change to be fully effective, the entire organization needs to shift its focus and understanding in the new direction. Thus change management can make small changes to the status quo, but it cannot lead the organization in an entirely new direction.
No Empowerment: While the change management team can help an organization adjust to the change, change management rarely has the ability to empower and give ownership of the change to an organization’s employees. Unless employees feel empowered to change the way they operate in accordance with other changes to the organization, the change cannot be either deep-rooted or far-reaching.
No Urgency:Change management is, as its title would suggest, the process of controlling change. It oversees and ensure the organization runs smoothly during the change, but it has no urgency behind it, no driving force to compel the organization to change. Without this urgency, a change management force will likely find it difficult to drive rapid or large-scale change.
The goal of change leadership is much the same as that of change management, but it approaches change in an entirely different way.
While change management monitors and controls the change, change leadership is the force behind driving the change.
As the power behind the change, change leadership fills the holes that change management cannot. Change leadership is essential to effective change because it has the capacity to move an organization in a new strategic direction. Yet like change management, change leadership cannot stand on its own. Examining the pros and cons of change leadership will illustrate both the value it brings as well as the challenges it faces.
Buy-in: Buy-in, or the commitment of an organization’s employees to strategic decisions, is essential for lasting change. Without it, employees will simply view change as an updated or substituted process rather than an entirely new direction for the organization. Change management forces frequently find it challenging to orchestrate buy-in; it must come from the top of the organization. This is where change leadership becomes imperative, because it holds the necessary authority. If leadership communicates the vision for the change to the entire organization, the organization will be far more receptive to the idea of changing. Moreover, change leadership should be sure to include employee input when creating the new strategy for the organization, effectively giving ownership of the change to the entire organization. This ownership will ensure that the organization is invested in the change, as employees are implementing their own strategic changes rather than those that leadership has forced on them.
Overcoming Politics: While external change management forces can navigate political and cultural barriers more easily than internal forces can, these barriers often start at the top of the organization. Change leadership, therefore, can also play a large part in removing those barriers. Empowering employees to adjust the way they operate in order to cope with the change can greatly help an organization to overcome political and cultural barriers.
Instilling Urgency: Because leaders drive the organization, change leadership has the capacity to bring about rapid change through instilling a sense of urgency in the organization. If employees understand the necessity for rapid and far-reaching change, they will feel compelled to change, and the change will occur far more thoroughly and rapidly.
Limited External Influence: In most cases, an organization’s leadership has authority to direct its employees in whatever direction it sees fit. Bias and the lack of an external perspective, however, can limit a leader’s capacity to understand how to effectively implement change. Allowing an external and experienced change management force to bring in a fresh perspective can allow for better change management overall.
Limited Execution: The level of comprehensive knowledge and detailed control necessary for effective change management requires more time and resources than leaders usually have to spare. Change management forces are thus needed to gather all of the minute details that allow for a full understanding of how to implement change, where barriers could arise, and how to ensure the organization operates normally.
Limited Risk Management:Because change leadership must instill a sense of urgency to drive effective change, a measure of risk is frequently involved. Change leadership often does not fully understand the capacity of the organization to cope with deep and rapid change. Without this understanding, leadership could drive the organization to a state of chaos. Change management provides the control and risk management necessary to combat the risk that change leadership may create.
By themselves, both change management and change leadership are lacking. While change management forces have the responsibility to implement the change, without drive from leadership, change management can frequently manage only surface-level, small-scale change. Change leadership has the power to drive large-scale change, but without change management, it has little control over the change that occurs. In order to implement truly successful change across an organization, therefore, business leaders should be sure to employ both change management and change leadership.