The Organizational Strategist

October 29, 2014

Leading and Influencing Change Across Organizations


-Introduction-

Companies have many different alignment and operating models. Some are small, dynamic, and nimble, often sharing major activities with multiple parties, using a flatter organizational structure. Others are large, structured, and consistent, often centrally controlled and structured, and using a clear upward and downward hierarchy. Beyond that, there are companies that blend the two extremes. Networks, partnerships, franchises, and other types allow for specialization by product, cause, service, customer type, geography, or other focus area.

There is no one best approach. With increased central control, it becomes easier and simpler to act on top strategic priorities as all areas need to snap to it. Yet, it becomes much more difficult to adapt. With more distributed authority, many more activities can be done in an adaptive, emerging manner. Yet, having a systemic method of operating or repeatability is challenging. How can a company balance the benefits and style of being nimble and adaptable with repeatability and consistency? Let’s dive in!

-Taking the plunge-

Let’s take the example of franchises since they are a well-known blend of central elements, yet customize their approach by region. They are often independently owned and operated with support and shared benefits from the parent organization. The franchises localize their approach to their established region, which can make them very competitive and compelling to customers. This gives the franchise leadership the ability to innovate and find the best manner to meet market needs. At the same time, the franchise can leverage the parent company’s support, branding, marketing, operating models, standard products and services, and potentially other benefits. This helps the franchise organization to focus its efforts on its market (customer segments, product and service selection or refinement, adaptation to suit customer needs and wants, and so forth).

Often franchise businesses have some discretion to pick and choose what they use and how they operate. This then puts the parent company in more of an enablement position, instead of a directly leading role. That then means that if the parent company wants to change how something is done in the child organizations, it needs to be a blend of both exerting formal power and, likely more importantly, influencing that change.

That blend of formal power and informal influence is where the art of designing and implementing change comes into play, as opposed to a disciplined scientific method to change. It is less of a scientific effort because each region that a franchise operates in may have unique needs and approaches to success. That means that the central change to be rolled out, perhaps changing how to interact with customers, would need to have its core principles articulated and allow for region-specific adaptations for fit and market interest. Putting together assets such as vision materials, operating principles, guidelines, recommended best practices, and templates all provide lift while allowing for the innovative adaptation to the local region.

To pull together the overall change throughout the organization, it can help to break down the components of change. I’ll use the Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement (ADKAR®) model here:

Awareness – How aware are the franchises of the upcoming change?

The franchises would need to be clearly told what the upcoming change is, how it is going to happen, when it will be in place, and other details to simply understand the planned change.

Desire – How much desire or motivation do the franchises have for the upcoming change?

The franchises should be bought into this change. They should understand why it is important and helpful for both them as well as the parent company. The importance could be in any number of avenues (improve customer satisfaction, promote new market products that have sold really well elsewhere, and so forth).

Knowledge – How much knowledge do the franchises have around the upcoming change?

The franchises should be able to articulate the change in their own words and how it applies to them. As an example, if they are to sell a new product, they would need to understand the product details.

Ability – How able are the franchises to handle and adapt to the upcoming change?

The franchises must have the right skills, proficiency, time, resources, and so forth to enact this change.

Reinforcement – How well reinforced is the upcoming change to ensure it will last over time?

In order to ensure the change will persist and not revert back to the previous approach, the change would need to be rolled out in such a way that the new approach is adopted, tracked, and sustained.

-Summary-

Every organizational model has its own strengths and best fit uses. Along with that, each type has its own best fit approaches for evolving and leading change in and across the organization. Understanding where and how to strategically and tactically make changes in an organization is crucial for a transformative leader. For those would-be leaders, strive to find that right blend of art and science to lead and manage change. Good luck!

 

Please note that the ADKAR Model® and the Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement phrase are copyrights of Prosci, all rights reserved.

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