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S2 E4: Agile Change Leadership with Melanie Franklin

One of the most fundamental roles a change manager undertakes is to keep the expectations of those impacted by change “managed”. By managed, I mean to ensure that throughout the variety of communications stakeholders receive, what they believe they will get and what we end up delivering remain as close to each other as humanly possible.

This is important as it helps us avoid disappointment. It helps us avoid frustration.

As this week’s guest - Melanie Franklin - points out perhaps the pandemic has produced a sort of disconnect between leaders driving change and the employees impacted by it. From her discussions many leaders reflecting on the past 18 months have come to the conclusion that their organisations - perhaps even their leadership - are capable of change at speeds and scales that previously they would only dared to have considered. Much of what enabled changes to take place as it did, was that people were forced into a situation where there was no alternative and they had all of their business, teams and managers aligned and focused on a single objective.

As the various restrictions that enabled those conditions are lifted then perhaps it might be asking too much for change to be delivered at those speeds again. A disconnect however is emerging - not only is thinking about what enables changes to take place at that speed misjudged, returning people to work in itself is also proving to be its own challenges as employees have a taste of a different way of working.

In fact one of Mels observations is that, all the talk of hybrid working is actually become a nuisance for most executives as it a change they themselves had not planned and comes at a time where there is a vast array of opportunities that they would prefer to capitalise on but cannot mobilise the focus to these opportunities.

It appears to be a classic case of missed expectations of one another. On one hand, employees found novel ways and developed new skills in rapid speed to keep companies operational during a challenging period. On the other hand, businesses need to rapidly capitalise on the volume of opportunities currently available. And somewhere between these two - the other party mistook what they were expecting from the other.

This really could be a tricky time for organisations, employees and change professionals alike. A lot of tension can and will easily boil over into frustration and it's why Mel is working hard to remind people that if we want to have our cake and eat it so to speak we need to employ more agile thinking in the way we lead our people toward, through and beyond the changes we envisage.

For their part, change leaders need to remember that part of their role is to create and hold the space for their teams to execute the change. Deciding on a direction and leaving the team for months on end to get on only to find the expected progress is slower than expected is a sure fire way to create your own tension. As Mel describes, her leadership has always been like enabling a team to chart a safe course through a dense jungle. She as the leader may target the direction and objective but it is down to her also to help the team develop confidence to take decisions about and how where and when to go and supporting them as they no doubt experience successes and missteps so that they can ultimately find a way through.

Change, agility and continuous improvement seemed to have all been operating in their own circles pre-pandemic but now it is really crucial that these three areas come together and help organisations realign expectations about the real velocity at which change can take place.

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