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Rethinking the Role of Change Management Lead

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When I first started my work as a change management professional, I would jokingly say “as the change management lead, I’m not responsible for ‘the thing” – I’m responsible for people understanding and adopting ‘the thing’.”   And after years in executive management, defining and executing countless business strategies, I was kind of grateful for the chance to support other leaders instead of driving myself.   As a result, in my first several years in change management, I let my clients define solutions and I stayed pretty much in my own lane – supporting adoption with stakeholder analyses, sponsor coaching, communication, training, feedback loops, change agent networks, resistance diffusion coaching and the like – sometimes impacting “the thing” itself but more often, refining how it was presented to employees.

 

Recently, however, that perspective has changed.  Two factors have contributed to this shift and my ability to integrate business leadership and change management in a more fulfilling manner as I continue to build my change management practice.

  • My current client is a start-up division within a well-established brand of consumer products.  As part of a skeletal crew, I’ve been asked both to build the processes, systems and organization to deliver a new business AND a change management plan to support the integration of these new “things” with legacy programs and personnel of the parent organization.
  • Additionally, while listening to a presentation on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by the Association of Change Management Professionals, I observed a board member present her team’s DEI statement and policy AND speak about the ways she worked with others to build support for this initiative amongst various constituents.

 

This realization – that change management and business leadership needn’t be an either/or career choice and that it can merge to be a both/and scenario – has given me a much richer lens to view my work and how I contribute to my client’s businesses.  I can leverage my two decades+ of business experience to contribute actively to the definition and refinement of “the thing” yet focus on my newer passion for helping employees understand and prepare for changes that are coming their way, and to help them ride the wave instead of being crushed by it.  Segmentation is fine, but integration may be the more rewarding path going forward.

 

As I’ve embarked on this change management journey, I’ve thought about it as a bit of a fork in the road.  Going forward, I will ask myself if it’s merely an additional lane along the same highway – one that I can move into and out of as the challenge requires. 

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Lessons from lululemon

Now that I’ve left lululemon, it’s interesting for me to notice what wisdom has followed me into this next adventure.  Here are some lessons that have stuck with me and are particularly germane to change management:

          1.  People only complain because they care.

Think about it. It’s true.  If you were apathetic or ambivalent about an outcome, would you bother to express dissatisfaction about a current situation or the impact a new set of behavioral expectations was likely to have on you? 

So as managers of people in your organization, be grateful for that.  Harness your team’s passion (even if expressed as grumbling) and involve them as critical stakeholders in whatever change you’re trying to bring about.

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Change Management: Definition and Benefits

Here is a quick overview of what change management is and the benefits it can bring to project delivery and overall business results.

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