Last month, my blog post introduced the seven levers of change. A quick review - two levers deal with making sure everyone knows about the change, two are about handling resistance and gaining expertise, and three focus on fostering an environment that supports an organizational change. Taken together, the levers are the key elements of a practical program for successful change management.
In this blog post, I explore in a bit more depth the three levers of change that are designed to help leaders cultivate an environment that supports the change. These are investing in infrastructure, leading by example, and rewarding successes. While individually important, when used together these levers reinforce one another and create a greater overall effect. In other words, each one is more effective when the other two are present, and investment in one leads to greater return on investment from all three.
Failing to use all three levers together, or even trying to rely on a single one, inevitably results in missed opportunities. Consider the example of a contract research firm which realized that to remain competitive they needed to expand the base of clients they served. They employed well-educated, motivated employees who were interested in new challenges. The company believed they could implement this market development initiative just by giving substantial bonuses to employees who helped write proposals to win research contracts in new areas. However, the firm did not facilitate proposal writing with time, supporting infrastructure, or even leadership involvement. They did win a few new contracts, but they tended to be small and did little to expand their client base.
If the firm really wanted to grow, the first step would have been to be more strategic. Compensation, including bonuses for new contracts, should emphasize the area in which a company wants to expand their client base. Articulating the business case—not only for growth but for the direction in which they wanted to grow—is a job for leadership. A clear vision of future direction and future clients is part of leading by example. It facilitates targeting the employees with proven abilities in those areas. Further, supporting these employees with time to write, clerical staff, sending them to conferences, or other infrastructure would have encouraged them to take the risk of writing proposals for contracts in new areas to earn the bonus money. Compensation (rewarding successes) alone cannot offset the lack of infrastructure and clear leadership—no matter how talented and motivated the employees are.
>In contrast, Every dollar invested in the infrastructure supporting a change is more effective when leadership directs and monitors the change. Similarly, direction from a leader is more effective when employees are rewarded or recognized for successes. It goes full circle. Rewards are more meaningful when employees have the tools and infrastructure that they need to implement the change.
The interactions and synergies described with these three levers are typical of the seven levers as a whole. No one of them alone can ever be a “silver bullet.” Used together, they form an effective, integrated strategy for implementing and sustaining change. Each lever represents a relatively broad area, whose implementation will vary for different change initiatives. The levers have power because they are broad enough to apply to most initiatives and specific enough to drive constructive, grounded planning that engages employees in the initiative. In future blog posts, I will discuss more of the interactions among the seven levers of change as well as some of the dangers of overusing them.