There are really only three things that a leader needs to know about managing change. Despite the books that are written on the topic that have the eight steps or the fifty-four steps or the sixty-four yoga positions, there are only three concepts needed.

First of all, the change leader is the leader. It is not a consulting firm. It is not internal change leaders. If the senior-most leader in the company does not behave in a manner consistent with the desired change, you can pack it in.

The second thing leaders need to know is that change is a process of alignment. Some of the best research in behavioral science bears this out. This alignment must take place on three planes

  1. Information – People need to know what is expected of them and where the company is going.
  2. Motivation – There must be a benefit to the individual and it must overlap with the needs of the organization. This means appropriate rewards – not necessarily money, in fact it is often not money.
  3. Performance – People need to know how to do what they are being asked to do.

When you align those three elements to your objectives you will get a very powerful result. You may get some result if you do one of the three or two of the three but you will get the best result by far by doing all simultaneously.

The third major point is it is not enough to address change only in mechanical terms.  For example, you want people to stop putting their coffee cup on the left of their laptop and now put it on the right. You can tell people to do that pay them to do it and if it were more complicated, you might have to teach them how. Simple enough. However, the changes that vex most leaders are not the simple, obvious ones, they are more subtle and complex. For these, leaders need a process to learn about change conceptually and apply the concepts to their own situation and get calibrated. This is education and if the leaders don’t acquire it, all the training they send others to won’t achieve the desired results.

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