The Leader, The Change, and the Human Being

The Leader, the Change, and the Human Being

Today we introduce our new guest writer, Louise Duranleau. Her introductory post tonight is on change management with “The Leader, the Change, and the Human Being.” We are pleased to present this brief bio in Louise’s own words: I was born in Quebec and raised in the United States. I have had the opportunity to work throughout Quebec, Canada, and the United States. Strategic advisor, project manager, continuous improvement manager, operations manager, and sales manager for several international organizations. My experience from assistant to coordinator, from project coordinator to project manager, from marketing director to sales director, from operations director to consultant, I had the chance to work in a professional and diversified business world. First woman to be part of a North American group of Canadian and American businessmen for a powertrain specialized company in Quebec City. Instigator and collaborator in the implementation of several national marketing and sales projects. Resource person and business link with internationally renowned manufacturers. My areas of expertise: Project Management • Change Management • Process Improvement Management in the Industrial, Transportation, Information Technology and Health Care fields • Sales and Marketing Management • Organizational Restructuring • Communication Plan • Training programs • Development of Management Tools.

The Leader, the Change, and the Human Being

Change seems perpetual all around us. Life, like work, is changing rapidly due to new technologies and easy access to information. We are in an era of continuous questioning, renewal, and improvement. I have learnt to live with change quite well. I am motivated by change because I have, so far, found my strength in it. I am a person who adapts easily to a new environment. Whether it’s a move, a trip to a foreign country or a change in the route plan; I digest, reflect, and then readjust my aim to better adapt to the situation.

Several years ago, I was offered the position of Project Manager for a powertrain company.   Imagine a blonde woman, without adequate training, without technical knowledge, immersed in a man’s world, who is going through a whole new change and who must sell the change; that is, to implement new ways of doing things in repair management and customer service. I made a lot of mistakes, but I managed to complete the project by adapting to each obstacle. I had to set up the project in a branch where I was not well known, to reduce the resistance concerning my lack of experience.

Today, with hindsight, I could reproduce the implementation much quicker. I learned to better plan and implement the change by considering major factors: organizational culture and foreseeable resistance that must be faced during the process of change. The success of a project depends not only on the deliverables, the budget, the schedule, and the team, but also on our ability to manage change within the company.

We can plan everything on paper: the equipment, the resources, the desired results, but we must never forget the human beings directly involved and not involved. The challenges of change should not be underestimated. We must be alert to the reactions of all those who will have to deal with the change, from near and far. Do not hesitate to consult with all groups in the company to get their input on changes that are planned in the company.

Change takes time. The individuality to maintain existing conditions may be strong. One can feel more comfortable with familiarity. There is no need to adapt to things we already know. According to Jennifer L. Kunst, Ph.D.  “This is why it is so hard to break a habit, even if we know it is not good for us. We believe that we need the very thing we are trying to give up.”

Never skip steps or introduce change with force. Michel Crozier, French sociologist, quoted “one cannot make individuals change in authoritarian and coercive ways”.  As a leader of change, it is especially important to understand what emotions the changes may generate in the individuals concerned. We must put the human being before the objective or result to be achieved, because the latter can sometimes seem more important than what the individuals are experiencing during the change.

Before embarking on a project, be sure to include consultation periods with not only management, but also with all employees involved in any way. You would be surprised to get important feedback from employees who are far from being affected by this change and yet can be supportive of the success of the project.

According to Daryl Conner, author of Managing at the Speed of Change, we must also determine whether the change is minor or major. That is, “mapping the human picture and examining the five key areas: sponsorship, resistance, culture (beliefs, assumptions, behavior), architecture (support in place), and capacity (intellectual, emotional, physical, or financial resources) in order to properly plan and manage change.” “Today, we’re seeing more and more that leadership has matured in its understanding of change management. Leaders are recognizing that, at least for major change, they need a lot of guidance around to deal with the human landscape. This support is not around ‘what’ is being changed as much as ‘how’ to execute change so full realization can be achieved”.

In reading many Conner articles, I also believe that as project managers, we need to do more introspection. We understand all the processes, but we also need to understand who are the people going through the changes and remember the values already embedded in the organization.

According to John Kotter, Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School, he argues that many projects fail because victory is declared too early. In one of Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model; Communication Buy-in guides us to better address resistance to change. Elaborating a communication plan throughout the process of change is considered a major asset to help understand and share the business motivation to change and validate the relevance of our actions. We certainly must not forget one of the most important phases; a training program to ensure that our employees become familiar with our changes.

When we have a lack of knowledge related to the project, we must focus our efforts on consultation and dialogue. We must do the same when we believe we have mastered the subject. For a project to work, you must build relationships and bring the different stakeholder groups together and validate that our knowledge is still current. We need to have a good portrait and understanding of who the people are.

Never forget that the human being is part of the success in every aspect of our life and our work. They should always be considered at every level during the change implementation and be considered the priority in everything we do. Be on the lookout, prior, during, and after, for people’s reactions to change. Please do not have a preconception and make your own conclusions.

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