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How to Drive Meaningful Change in an Organization

front line manager as change agent


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Once people get a good idea, they are sometimes too eager to pursue it in a thoughtful and disciplined manner, choosing instead to plow ahead at full speed. How many times have you begun to put something together and decided to only consult the instructions after you need help?

This distracted and undisciplined mindset is often seen in CEOs and executives who are responsible for their company’s strategy. One source estimates that most companies spend less than 4 hours on strategy per month! That’s taking the “set it and forget it” mantra too far.

It’s easy for leaders to get caught up in the tactical minutiae and fires one must tend to each day. But leaders must find ways to focus on making sure they have the right strategy to optimize their business with marketplace needs and, if changes are necessary to maintain that pace, that they are able to implement and sustain the necessary strategic change.

Before plowing ahead, leaders must consider their strategy execution at both macro and micro levels.

Macro Level Sales Strategy

The macro level considers the big picture and identifying the initiatives in which you want to invest. You must first understand the benefits of the individual initiatives and weigh them against the cost, risks, and timing to implement. Dispassionately view the initiative within the framework of your business goals and avoid chasing fads or something that’s not right for your company at this time.

Micro Level Sales Strategy

Once you’ve decided to go ahead, you should next examine the micro level. Richardson Sales Performance uses a strategy execution framework with clients that consists of 5 stages:

  1. Strategy execution planning.  This is about project management and thinking through each step that you need to follow – in sequence! – in order to successfully implement the strategic initiative.
  2. Establish best practices.  Where are you today and where do you want to go? What are the series of events or the path that you’re going to take to get there? What will it take to drive that change throughout your entire organization down to the front lines and, most importantly, what’s going to make it stick?
  3. Evaluate your talent.  When embarking on a new strategic initiative, you have to examine the jobs required to execute that new process. What competencies are necessary to be successful in the new job? Do you have the talent to succeed in those roles? Do you need to redeploy your talent, add training, or hire from outside to get your people in the right jobs? Be prepared to make tough decisions regarding those who don’t fit or who cannot adapt to the change.
  4. Build capability and consistency.  The track record of most organizations in implementing change is abysmal. Why? They often fail to realize that leaders need to drive the new desired behaviors down to front-line managers and reps. Don’t assume that employees know exactly what they need to do differently. Coach them on what to say, how to act, what to expect, and how to measure it. Help them embrace the change and articulate the benefits of making the change. Tie execution to specific behaviors and manage them.
  5. Sustainment at the organizational and individual levels.  During the planning phase, you should have identified the organizational key performance indicators (KPIs) that you want to move as a result of the strategic change initiative. What are the KPIs for individuals and what coaching or training is required to help them sustain the change? Are the rewards in place to properly motivate and reinforce the desired (or old) behaviors?
When making organizational changes, you have to evaluate both the structural and functional aspects of the change. The outcome is people doing things differently in order to align with the strategy that you think is going to help make your organization successful.

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