As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership champion, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
We are near the midpoint of our review of the eight-step change process by Dr. John P. Kotter. First, we have looked at a high-level overview, then more detailed studies of urgency, guiding coalition, and strategic vision and initiatives. Our focus this week is Accelerator 4, enlisting a volunteer army.
A successful company that develops a compelling vision can gain workforce buy-in. A quick review of the change process is the 8 Steps to Accelerate Change eBook. The steps are now known as accelerators that include:
1. Create a sense of urgency
2. Build a guiding coalition
3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives
4. Enlist a volunteer army
5. Enable action by removing barriers
6. Generate short-term wins
7. Sustain acceleration
8. Institute change
Developing a cadre of change champions is essential to carrying out transformational change.
Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action. These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud. – Helen Dyer
I like Kotter’s perspective on a volunteer army. It allows Dyer’s “voice of the people” to support the organization’s vision for the future. I often recommend that individuals interested in developing leadership skills join a nonprofit comprised of volunteers who champion a cause that is important to them. If they can inspire and motivate those who receive nothing beyond satisfaction for doing good for others, they will learn skills to take this to the next level with paid employees.
The current workforce wants to move beyond surviving to a workplace that allows them to flourish, be happy, and have an opportunity for fulfillment. Therefore, a strategic plan enabling individuals to build a life of meaning and purpose is necessary. A successful strategy will support actions required to remove barriers and recognize early short-term wins. Each organization member needs clearly defined objectives and goals, access to accurate data, and an environment of effective two-way non-judgmental communication from active and dynamic leadership engaged in the proactive review of planned targets. Done effectively, the collection of each individual’s success in achieving their goals will result in the sustained incremental change needed to reach the long-term vision.
GMBC Healthcare CEO and president John Chessare in a presentation at the Malcolm Baldrige 2022 Quest for Excellence Conference, advocated the Act of Enrollment process where change agents need to:
• Engage the person in a dialogue about the need for change.
• Invite questions or concerns about the change.
• Ask for a commitment to working on the change.
He has found this to be an often-overlooked step where leaders do not allow employees a comfortable and safe environment to understand better the impact of organizational change on its employees. However, doing so allows two-way dialogue to happen early in the change process, resulting in greater clarity throughout the workforce of what they will experience and an opportunity to provide insight into potential issues unknown to that point in the planning work.
My experience is that many leaders and managers do not understand the need for employee empowerment. If they do, there is a lack of understanding of what it means and how to create a culture that embraces this critical element of business success. When I have been the most successful as a leader are the times when I was in an environment allowing this to blossom. The empowerment of employees should include:
• Providing needed training – Leaders should commit to developing the skills necessary to make these volunteers efficient and effective change agents.
• Aligning systems to the vision – The organization must put the work in to develop a business operating system as a company guide that outlines the what, how, when, and why regarding company responsibilities to carry out the vision.
• Cut the tail – The leadership must deal with troublesome managers, supervisors, or employees that are a small percentage of the workforce fighting or sabotaging the essential work of developing an improvement plan to achieve the company vision.
• Effectively tap an enormous power source by enabling the entire workforce - The Gallup State of the American Workforce report found American workforce engagement is at 33%, startlingly low compared to the 70% result for the world’s best companies. In the US, 16% of employees experience active disengagement. With only 33% engaged, 51% of the workforce is just present, a severe waste of human potential we should better utilize.
It will be essential to pay attention to whether the desired change is becoming ingrained in the minds and actions of the organization. Additional focus is required to execute the various tasks with timeliness, proper resource allocation, and embracing responsibility. The guiding coalition must improvise, innovate, and re-inquire the action plans to deepen the volunteer army engagement.
Our volunteer army should consist of those on the change resistance bell curve of the small percentage of the employees ready to embrace the new company vision. These individuals must be selected internally at all company levels and across departments or divisions with an invitation to engage in the transformation process fully. Additionally, we should ask external stakeholders with initial buy-in to the transition to the new vision to participate as change team members. Finally, the volunteer army will work on compelling the balance of the employees to become additional members of this essential group. The large-scale change required to transform a company can only happen if a significant number of employees at all levels of the organization work in concert to drive the desired change.
The current workforce wants to move beyond surviving to a workplace that allows them to flourish, be happy, and have an opportunity for fulfillment. But, unfortunately, the American workforce engagement at 33% is startlingly low compared to the 70% result for the world’s best companies. Therefore, we are responsible for developing an organizational environment of employee flourishing.
For effective and efficient change to occur, we must transition the work environment from a “have to” to a “want to” mindset to generate enthusiasm and empowerment in our workforce. Part of making this possible is a shift in our leadership mindset. Following the advice in the article How to Build a Volunteer Army is an example of accomplishing this objective. Six recommendations that, while written for those in the nonprofit sector, can be adapted to the for-profit one.
I am grateful to all the volunteers worldwide that help with the many global challenges. Additionally, I appreciate the organizations allowing their employees to volunteer regularly. At the same time, while a great thing to do, it has the added benefit of creating stronger bonds with our company peers.
Next week’s blog will continue exploring Kotter’s change process by looking at his recommendation to enable action by removing barriers integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
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