While successful corporate change often seems impossible, it can be and has been done.
The Five Lenses of Change Leadership™ provide a proven framework for designing and implementing successful corporate change efforts. The lenses enable leaders who are pursuing large scale corporate change to expand beyond their preferred lens to increase the likelihood for success. To put the five lenses in perspective, let’s start by examining why most corporate change efforts fail.
Top 5 Reasons Corporate Change Efforts Fail
- Not supporting people during change. This creates resistance, fear of the unknown and is often exacerbated by a lack of change skills in employees and leaders.
- Confusion about the purpose of change. When leaders are not clear and forceful about the need to change, people create an overly limited sense of what is possible and are confused by the mandates.
- Lack of commitment by established powers. Whether caused by conflicting interests or leaders being closed to new ideas, a perception of anything less than 100% alignment between key stakeholders is a recipe for disaster.
- Structures not included in the change. To be successful, behaviors and structures must be congruent with the proposed change. If people perceive that you are trying new things in “the same old ways,” you will struggle.
- Lack of understanding of how they are supposed to change. People want to know specifically what they need to do differently. If they are not learning new skills or not being rewarded for changing, you do not have enough reinforcement or feedback built into your change process.
We created the Five Lenses of Change Leadership™ to provide a proven framework overcoming these five challenges.
Five Lenses of Change Leadership™
A lens is a way of looking at one important aspect of change.
Using all the lenses together ensures a complete picture of the change.
By using different lenses separately, you can bring various aspects of the change into greater focus.
Successful Change Leaders understand and utilize each of these lenses.
To start, we define each lens as follows:
I. THE RELATIONSHIP LENS encompasses the way people relate to tasks, processes and other people as they accomplish their work. This lens examines human needs, relationships, teamwork, attitudes, skills, motivation and satisfaction in the work environment.
II. THE CULTURE LENS is the meaning, purpose, norms and values people associate with their work. This lens examines meaning, purpose and values expressed by organizations through written and spoken communications, activities, events and ceremonies common in the work environment.
III. THE STAKEHOLDER LENS represents the interests and politics of key parties who have a vested interest in the work effort. This lens examines power, conflict, and coalitions among those who have stakes to protect and interests to advance.
IV. THE STRUCTURE LENS comprises the goals, roles, tasks and processes used to organize the flow of work. This lens examines the goals, roles, formal relationships, job designs, work processes and rules that are used to organize and accomplish work.
V. THE INFORMATION LENS refers to the data and tools available to people who make decisions and take action. This lens uses reliable benchmarks, information, tools and data to diagnose problems, measure results and calibrate actions to support desired outcomes.
Preferred Lens Assessment
Now that you understand the various lenses, your first task as a leader is to understand strengths and weaknesses.
This understanding allows you to pinpoint areas where you already demonstrate a high level of skill as well as those areas where opportunities exist to strengthen your skills as a Change Leader. The same process should be used to indicate which lens is most and least used within your organization.
Many of our clients find it helpful to writing the name of the lens or lenses in the appropriate quadrant on the chart below to create a common starting point. In working with our clients, we use a 50-question assessment to identify lens preferences.
Once you understand where you fit on the lens assessment, your next step is to support others in the areas where you are strong and get help in the areas in which you are weak so you can create a more balanced and successful change effort.
For example, an introverted or domineering leader should seek help with the Relationship lens to understand others’ experience of change and to help the team move through the phases of transition. Specifically this means getting help with: (1) announcing a change, (2) facilitating change meetings to explore concerns about a change, and (3) overcoming individuals’ natural resistance to change.
Alternatively, a leader (or an organization) more focused on tactics and execution should pursue help with the Culture lens to create a compelling Road Map for change and give people a purpose and vision that they can believe in. This includes steps such as (1) identifying key drivers of change, (2) creating a shared group vision (building on corporate vision), and (3) identifying key obstacles to the change.
Change is hard. Successful large scale corporate change is rare. We know that a balanced approach to change offers the greatest chance for success. If you are a leader pursuing change, do not underestimate the power of embracing relationships, culture, stakeholders, structure, and information to get the job done.
The chart below provides an initial framework to help leaders balance focus, actions, and approach to increase the odds for success.