Leading change in depth


Bringing people together to push through the challenges of change
Over the past few years we’ve been increasingly involved in partnering to support APS SES and executive level staff in leading change.

Some of this work has been more traditional consulting to conduct studies and scans, facilitate planning conferences, and help draft and edit plans and documents for internal and stakeholder consultations.

Where our practice has been expanding is really an extension of community development.

We’ve developed ways to create a real, facilitated conversation between top- and mid-level leaders about the actual strategic drivers and constraints that have shaped decisions about organisational change. This inevitably opens a dialogue about the unintended consequences for those affected by decisions they did not make, and their emotional responses.

The quality of these dialogues in groups is often inspiring. It may be the first opportunity some mid-level leaders have to reflect on how limited the locus of control is for senior leaders after the government of the day has made hard, high level decisions. This reflection creates the foundation for aligning mid-level executives with strategy: trust in and empathy for the senior people they report to.

Of course, this process also creates a forum for individuals to vent. And that, other participants quickly realise, is a gift. They need to practice showing respect for individuals who have, often only temporarily, lost their cool. This is an integral part of leading change every leader must prepare for. Indeed making it possible to express reactive emotions and be heard with respect is often the most effective way to prepare people to learn and grow.

Our contributions to this kind of work draw on decades of practitioner experience and a repertoire of facilitation techniques and cognitive aids that can help groups listen to what their members are feeling and thinking, reflect on each other experience, and gain perspective.

Another set of learning processes involve coaching mid-level executives to draft plans about how they will manage relationship with the people who will be leaving their work groups, the people who will be staying, and the new people who will arrive; and to sustain their own personal resilience.

We ask them to discuss them to workshop their plans with peers before presenting what they intend to do to the person report to for confirmation. Then they get coaching and feedback through implementation, which often involves coaching and feedback for the people who report to them.

We’re also working with variants of methods the great Australian psychologist Fred Emery developed decades ago to build leadership networks with a common strategic appreciation and intent across organisations, and between organisations.

What works in your organisation will depend on its culture and the personalities of its top leaders. We can help you work that out.

As a leader, you already know that the human dimensions of top-down change won’t work out very well unless you lead with your head, heart and humility; reach out for all the help you can get from your colleagues; and bring people with you.

WHH and its networks bring deep experience in strategic change management.