Organizational change of any kind, let alone the substantial change we believe is necessary for true customer focus, is never accomplished by issuing an order, nor is it a spectator sport. It must be led from the top and led at all levels of the organization.
Establishing the common language and practice that are focused on the buying cycle, based on the customer, and supported by a culture and the reality of accountability represents substantial change for nearly all customer-facing organizations.
While it has been long understood that leadership is essential to successful change in organizations, that understanding has clarified over the last decade thanks to the work of Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter and others. Kotter persuasively argues that people in organizations rally around and make real change only after they clearly see the need for change and feel the impact that change would have on their lives. This process of seeing and feeling, Kotter maintains, begins with leaders creating a sense of urgency with concrete evidence of the need. Change efforts are sustained by this urgency and by a clear vision, articulated by leaders, of what the changed organization will feel like.
Most organizations initiate change efforts with detailed analysis and plans, upon which management dictates change. Analysis and planning are required parts of successful change efforts and support the culture and reality of accountability. The basis on which to lead successful change efforts, however are not analyses and plans.
As leaders, we are challenged to offer up the visions to which people can connect and can have a visceral reaction. The sense of urgency we create and the vision we articulate are required elements of leading change.