Leaders are responsible for creating and facilitating change in organizations. We observe in the natural world that everything alive changes in order to remain alive and viable. It is the same with human organizations.
“Change management” is a popular buzzword in management circles in recent years. I don’t think leaders can manage change any more than you manage time — but you can manage energy, focus, and attention-span. Leaders can’t manage change – but you can provide people with more information and make persuasive arguments. Leaders can’t manage change – but you can reduce the obstacles which make changing in the desired direction more difficult.
Organizations have immune systems however — they fight back against anything perceived as ‘foreign’ or ‘unnatural.’ Even under the best of circumstances, the change you seek faces three groups of people:
- The early adopters (you like this group, but there aren’t many of them)
- The active resistors (a minority, but still often larger and better-positioned than the early adopters)
- The passive wait-and-see majority
Don’t waste too much time and energy on the passive majority. Use the metaphor of fire to think about how to help a project succeed with the early adopters and the active resistors.
Fire requires three things:
Remove any one of these and the fire will go out. Add more of each and the fire will grow larger.
Leaders accomplish change through staffing decisions, resource allocation (time, energy, funds), and sharing information. These are the organization’s fuel, heat, and oxygen.
What provides fuel, heat, and oxygen to your early adopters? These grow the fire of change. How can you give them more of each? How can you reduce or eliminate one of more of the key elements the active resistors need to keep the status quo?