In 1982, Peters and Waterman wrote their classic bestseller, ‘In Search of Excellence‘. Their book was a call to America (and the world) to get on board with the Japanese approach to change and quality. If you have ever asked yourself, what is change management about, this would be an excellent starting point.
Almost 40 years later, Peters and Waterman’s research and writings remain at the forefront for anyone who wants to understand how simple and small changes over time can have a profound and global impact on the way you live, learn, work and succeed.
They focused primarily on Japanese management lessons and, without knowing it, creating a change management model that would become timeless. They made the ‘Japanese Model‘ and the ‘Japanese Way‘ go viral and created a global change management movement that has never looked back.
In this blog post, I will share with you what I consider to be the fundamentals of change management, as learned from Peters and Waterman.
Their most effective way to learn is to go back to the roots – where it all started.
The Essence of Change Management
Before you get started on learning what change management is about, allow me to introduce you to one of the authors of ‘In Search of Excellence‘, Tom Peters. Change is about the pursuit of excellence and what better way to understand the core of what this means than from one of the creators himself.
Why did I choose this video, in particular, to share with you?
With very good reason.
Tom shares 3 ways to pursue excellence, which is the primary reason to want to change – to become better at what you do. At 0:27 seconds, he shares what I consider to be the genesis of change management. His discovery of these 4 words:
“What do you think?”
Those 4 words encapsulate the essence of what creates and drives change. As Tom says, think about those words and the power that resides in them.
When you take the time to ask someone: “What do you think?”, you are beginning the first step in the process of change – inclusion and value.
When was the last time someone took the time to ask you this question? And not just to ask you, by the way, but to REALLY ask you. By that, I mean that they took the time to allow you the space to think and respond and, most importantly, they actually LISTENED to what you had to say.
Change is about Movement
To achieve change, you have to create a movement that is driven by a need for who wants to be different. That takes strong and effective leadership. The kind of leadership that not only gets the horse to the water but makes him drink as if his life depended on it!
Many people may succeed in leading the horse to water but then struggle and give up because they cannot make him/her drink. There is a reason for that.
They missed the role of engagement.
That is where the power of those 4 words, “What do you think?”, come in. But do not think that you can just drop those words conveniently.
Your words must be congruent. In other words, they must be genuine. People will read straight through you if your words are anything but authentic. This must be a real part of who you are.
Would you follow someone anywhere if you did not believe them and their words?
Of course, you wouldn’t!
That applies to change management as well. I often wonder why the word management was tagged on to change because it makes it seem so crafted and structured which is the furthest thing from the truth.
Change, effective change, is facilitated by leaders who live the behaviours that it demands.
Change is about Leadership
It feels almost redundant to be saying this because so much is written about it. Everyone has an opinion and a perspective about leadership and the role it plays in achieving change.
With so much out there, you would tend to think that this concept of leadership would be second-nature, right?
Their more things change, the more they tend to remain the same.
Truth be told, successful change IS about LEADERSHIP. Break that word down and you get:
It looks much different when it is written that way, doesn’t it?
If you are leading a ship, you are charting the course, guiding the sails and directing the course. Although you are in charge, you may not be the one behind the wheel. You certainly are not the one who is doing everything.
Moving a ship requires all hands on deck and THAT is the key right there.
Whilst you may be able to move a ship all my yourself, you may be so exhausted during or, at the end of, the journey the joy and satisfaction of reaching your destination will most certainly be diminished.
Their journey is made much easier and more enjoyable when it is shared and everyone is involved.
Change is about People
I became a Computer Supervisor in the early 80s, at a time when people were fearful of computers because of fear. Fear of losing their jobs, of becoming redundant, of being left behind, of not being smart enough to “get it“. Back then, I was young and gave no thought to the fact that I had to get people to move forward with me, as we rolled out the computer programs.
It was my expectation that they would just “get it“. When they did not, I became frustrated and threw in the towel. I was convinced that something was wrong with “them“.
Years later, one of my Executives told me that if I wanted to be a successful person in business, I had to learn how to work with people. I was bright, talented and showed a lot of promise but, my people skills left a lot to be desired.
That conversation led me along a path of new learning. Instead of complaining and blaming everyone else, I took ownership – of me. I was determined to get on board the ship and direct its course.
The lesson is simple: You cannot lead if no one is following you.
Change is about Vision
I chose to leave this for last because, in my opinion, it is the aspect of change management that needs more time, thought and involvement. It is critical to the success that you are seeking.
Think about it.
If you have a team of the right people, in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing you will arrive at your destination. In other words, you have to begin with a clear vision in mind and ensure that all your people are on board and aligned.
You may not always have the benefit of choosing the most appropriate people for your journey. Often times you inherit a team and they are who you have to work with. What that means is, you have to spend more time getting to know them and engaging them.
Not everyone who is negative may be against you and the journey. Perhaps they are simply trying to warn you or share something that could impede the results that you want. That knowledge could save you from sinking the ship.
You do not want a Titanic on your hands, do you?
Embedding your Vision will take time and not everyone will get it the first time around. Keep speaking it, discussing it and most importantly, living it.
People will always see what YOU do before they listen to what you say.
Change is about Management
Here is where you connect the dots and get all the balls rolling. As important as management is for change, I chose to leave it for last. It is the aspect of Change Management that has received the most PR and occupies the most time.
We tend to make it harder than it is or it should be.
Management is about people. It does not matter home much money, tools or technology you have without people, nothing happens. People are responsible for the productivity, the outcome, the end result.
Management is about productivity and simply means getting things done through people.
Remember the ship that you are directing? As the director, your primary function is the management of all the resources that you have on board.
Their finances, tools, technology and welfare of the people who are on board are your responsibility. You control these resources and the expectation is that you will always have a bird’s eye view of them and know how to place them appropriately to get greater results.
This is what gives you the edge as a leader: Knowing as much as you can about all the resources at your disposal. Their more you know, the better you will be able to move them, much like a chess, to achieve crowning glory.
Cassandra is the Founder, Managing Director and Lead Partner at LaMP International Limited.
She is an internationally trained, experienced and versatile Executive, Facilitator, Speaker, Coach and Online Entrepreneur. Her expertise in Organisational Behaviour, Change Management. Group Work, Communications, Talent Development and Strategic Human Resources Management allow her to bring a unique and engaging style to the table.
When not in the dynamic business arena you can find her travelling the world with her daughter, writing, hiking, enjoying extreme sports, capturing life and nature or getting her hands dirty in the soil.