Four Organizational Change Mistakes To Avoid

Company’s go through organizational changes: implementing a new CRM system, restructuring project for cost cutting, introducing a new product line, expanding into another country, establishing e-commerce business, buying or merging with another company, relocation project – the list goes on and on.

Depending on the scale and complexity of the projects, those changes make people feel uneasy, uncertain, worried, or even fearful. The human and emotional aspects of change initiatives are often neglected. Based on 30 years of research by change expert Dr. John Kotter, professor at Harvard Business School, 70% of all major change efforts in organizations fail. There are 4 main reasons for failures:

Key leaders do not create enough sense of urgency

Without motivation transformation efforts will go nowhere. Companies and its leaders underestimate the importance of establishing an inspired coalition with energy and authority.

There is not a clear vision or it is not clearly communicated

Without a clear direction the change program can easily dissolve into a list of confusing projects taking the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all. Transformation is impossible unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to support it. It is absolutely essential to communicate where the change project is going and why.

Major obstacles and potential roadblocks are not anticipated and removed

There is hardly a change without obstacles. They can be: the organizational structure, narrowly defined job categories, compensation or performance-appraisal systems, and, worst of all, bosses who refuse to change and make demands that are inconsistent with the overall change vision.

Success is declared too soon and without anchoring the changes in the culture

Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values, they is a high risk to revert back to “the old way”. Change sticks when it becomes the way we do things around here, when it becomes part of the corporate culture.

Based on the four reasons for failure, leaders can significantly increase their chances of success of their organizational change project by following these strategies:

  1. Establish a motivated and committed core team that will drive, lead, and execute the change efforts despite potential resistance.
  2. Define and articulate a clear vision and ideal future outcome about the intended changes and its benefits, combined with constant communication and engagement of all stakeholders.
  3. Create short-term wins to inspire and create ongoing momentum for positive, sustainable change.
  4. Continuous reinforcement of the changes while anchoring them in the corporate culture to create sustainability.

How to Inspire Your Employees with a Vision?

When it comes down to promoting the vision throughout the organization, one of the most challenging part is engaging the workforce around it. This means creating an emotional connection with the vision for employees—more specifically, creating that emotional connection for each employee as an individual, so he or she understands how to be a part of making the vision come to pass.

OluKai is a company that does exactly that. As a leading high-quality, high-premium footwear company based out of Irvine, California they are building emotional connection between the vision and their employees. Jim Harris, CEO of OluKai since 2008, believes that deep inside each person is a happy place, a place of love. Jim refers to it as Aloha. It is a very complex word in Hawaii, which literally means “breath of life”. OluKai’s vision is grounded in the belief that everyone, no matter where you are, can live a life full of love and happiness. They want people to attract clients to wear a pair of OluKai sandals to connect emotionally to a place and lifestyle that unlocks the spirit of joy, affection and delight.

How Does OluKai Implement this Vision and Inspire Their Employees?

OluKai uses language, imagery and concepts from the Hawaiian Islands. At the core, the vision extends to everything at OluKai, from their brand to distribution, relationship with clients to its employees. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Everyone who works at or with the brand comes together as a true family. They call it Ohana, which stands for family in Hawaiian. When they have sales meetings, they don’t call them sales meetings. Instead, they call them Makahiki, which is a Hawaiian word for reunion or gathering. They even try not to have a corporate sales focus in these gatherings. Rather, it is an opportunity twice a year to come together with their employees and salespeople and celebrate real kinship. They meet to discuss the business they want to create, and they focus on the right partners, the right products, and how to build their business the right way, sustainably and ethically. They work to really keep an real toward having a company that in twenty years will be the most important ocean lifestyle brand in the United States. It’s not a meeting intended to drive performance for the next three to six months. Their focus is on the long road, the future, and it’s completely transparent.
  • The vision is represented in their product and brand philosophy which connects with what their customers value most. It’s expressed on their website, too: “We produce products we believe in. Products we can stand behind. We believe in quality of product and material, craftsmanship in construction and finding quality in life by the choices we make every day.” As a result, some orthopedic doctors are even recommending OluKai products to their patients. The company has received unsolicited testimonials even though they’ve never reached out to any doctors or tried to sell to the medical industry. That’s just an organic result of the quality of their products.

The rigorous pursuit of the vision reflects in revenue and profit growth in a very positive way. Year after year, the company has seen more than 30 percent return on investment from activities related to driving the vision and organizational development.

The Story of OluKai Provides Three Leadership Lessons

1) Create a compelling vision that is rooted in emotions

A vision should clearly reflect an organization’s core values and beliefs that relate to something noble and aspiring. OluKai’s vision is founded on the concept of Aloha -breath of life, love and happiness – which permeates through the entire organization.

2) Regularly communicate and reinforce the Vision

A leader’s messaging of the vision must be consistent and regular using different communication channels from internal communication, brand positioning, website, company events, to relationships with suppliers and distribution channels.

3) Build connections at all levels

Connections are developed through interpersonal relationships. When the leader walks the production floor, or meets with sales people, it creates opportunities to bond and build a connectedness between the people, leaders and company. The multitude of small contacts creates engagement at a large scale.

If an organization’s leaders can help employees connect their hearts to a vision, then the job takes on new meaning and commitment to the organization increases as a result. Connectivity is the glue that ties the intangible and invisible vision to the employees and their actions. When you build connectivity, people are willing to go the extra mile in their work, and they do that because they believe in the work they are doing and feel connected to the organization they work for.

What’s Your Vision Statement? A Hard Question for Leaders

The ability to remain competitive and relevant in the financial services industry or any other industry lies heavily in crafting a strategic direction for the future of the company that represents the company’s values and goals, which should be encompassed in a company’s vision statement.

When you ask most company leaders what the vision for their organization is, they often defer to the company’s current goals and plans rather than offer a forward-looking perspective of where they intend to be in the future.

Based on the 2016 Trends in Executive Development Benchmark Report, “the ability to create a vision, convey it to others, and inspire and engage people” is considered “the single most important capability needed for the emerging generation of leaders“; Yet, it is still the one of the most under-developed capabilities when it comes to organizational leadership.

Let’s take a look at how leaders can be coached to approach each of the steps in developing an effective vision statement.

1) Creating a Powerful Vision Statement

A vision statement should clearly reflect an organization’s core values and how the company’s future goals will align with those values. It is most important to develop a leader’s critical thinking skills in order to be capable of examining the implications of the organization and and anticipating future opportunities.  Strategic thinking must also be developed so that leaders can strategize on how to position the company to capitalize on those opportunities.

2) Convey the Vision Statement

“According to the Human Capital League, only 42% of employees know their organization’s vision, mission and values.”

A leader’s communications skills must be developed and strengthened to give them the ability to not only clearly explain the company vision to employees, but to connect them to how each of their roles in the organization contributes to and is incorporated into the company vision.

3) Engage People to Follow the Company Vision

A company’s vision that nobody stands behind has no chance of coming to fruition. In a recent study, “employees who don’t find their company’s vision meaningful at all have average engagement scores of only 16 percent.” These are employees who do not feel invested in the company’s success and will therefore not contribute wholly to it.
Company leaders must be developed in offering inspiring motivation to employees that will get and keep them engaged in working toward the success of the company vision.

Once an organization’s leaders are coached through mentorship and developmental job assignments to strengthen their critical thinking, communication and motivational skills, they will be much better prepared to answer the challenging question of a company’s vision. It is a question that must be answered if a company is going to position itself for future growth and success.

Understanding the Power of Vision

Many talk about the power of vision without truly understanding how real it is, and how much of a difference it can make in personal or professional achievement. It isn’t about “seeing is believing”. It’s about believing you have the power to make your vision come true.

Vision + Emotion = Drive

Drive Vision
As a salesman for my previous company, I attended a five-day training program in Seattle. At the end of the course, our trainer David Green asked each person to come to the front of the room and articulate his or her sales goals.

When my turn came, I walked confidently to the front of the room and described the following picture: “In December, I attend the international company convention in Seattle, where I receive an award for being the top sales producer. I am asked to step on stage, and in front of 1000 people, the company president hands me a plaque with my name on it. I step forward, my picture is taken, and I feel incredibly proud as I step off the stage.”

I was visualizing success.

Even as I said this, I knew it was a long shot. In order to qualify for this award, I would need to produce over $200,000 in revenue by the end of August. As a second-year salesman, it was a daunting goal.

Regardless of the odds, winning this award and getting the recognition was very important to me. I wanted it so bad that I devoted my full attention to this goal, thinking long and hard about how I could accomplish it. Then I set to work.

By the end of May, I had collected $110,000 in revenue over the previous nine months. I had three more months to make $90,000 for the company.
Working diligently, I scheduled meetings with potential clients, attended networking events, got contracts signed and collected as many payments as I could. In the month of June, I collected $20,000. In July, I set a personal record of $25,000. My focus grew stronger with every sale. In August, I had my best month ever – $50,000! My year end total came to $205,000. I was elated.

Come December, I flew to the corporate convention in Seattle. During the award presentations, I was asked to step behind a curtain on stage. I heard music, then my name was called over the loudspeaker. Stepping to the front of the stage, I shook the hand of the president and accepted my award. David Green took a picture of me with a big smile and bright face, and 1000 people clapped for me.
As my emotions soared, I recognized something very important: setting the goal is only the first step. By connecting the goal with a strong desire for recognition, I became deeply committed to achieving it. The raw power of emotion made the vision became incredibly motivating.

Unleashing the Power of Vision

Visioning is a skill that anyone can develop. Here are two different approaches.

1- Close your eyes and roll a movie in your mind. See yourself in the moment of success, reaching the goal, delivering the speech, landing the job… whatever you want to achieve. Mentally rehearse what’s coming. You are literally writing the script for yourself, so make it great.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw

2- If you want to develop a vision of your ideal situation (company, job, partner, whatever it may be), start by building a list of questions first.

  • What kind of environment?
  • What kind of people?
  • What are the key numbers?
  • What actions?
  • What experiences?
  • What feelings?
  • What role(s)?
  • What structure(s)?
  • What mindset?
  • What results?

The list of questions is up to you, but the more specific details you can identify, the more exciting the vision becomes.

With either approach, be sure to use the 3 P’s: see it in present tense, use positive language, and build vivid pictures. These will help you supercharge the vision with emotion, generating energy to carry you across the finish line.

The more specific and compelling you make your vision, the more interested in it you become. When it gets really interesting, it becomes utterly compelling. It begins to generate its own energy, and anyone who reads it feels pulled in, and focused on the desired result.

The power of vision is incredibly strong.

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