Communicate the change vision
It is not enough to just have a vision for change; you must successfully communicate this vision. Many initiatives fail due to lack of communication. As people question change, leaders must consistently and frequently express their vision to help others understand and commit to the new goals.
This sort of communication in your grain or feed business can take the form of formal employee meetings, informal small group gatherings or even one-on-one sessions with your staff. If you have an employee newsletter, utilize it to discuss your change strategy and your vision. If you don’t have such a vehicle, consider writing a letter to your employees stating your objectives and outlining the benefit of your course of action. These letters can be handed out personally to your employees, or mailed to them for more impact.
Empowering broad-based action
As the leader, you should remove as many obstacles as possible from the path of others so that they can make necessary changes aligned with your vision. Barriers can be personnel, money, time, human skills, attitudes, etc. By removing barriers, you give others the ability to work effectively toward the change. Barriers will frustrate employees who are supporting the change, but due to these blockages cannot take the actions necessary to truly support the change effort.
Generating short-term wins
Your team will need little victories to help sustain its motivation along the long path to the big change. Don’t overlook these. Think about how important crossing a few small items off your large daily “to-do” list is to your own self-motivation. It only makes sense that others need little wins to help keep them going! People need to see that their efforts are making a difference. You help the change effort by recognizing this and planning short-term goals and wins within the larger change. Don’t underestimate the importance of the pats on the back for the troops. This helps them feel appreciated, keeps morale higher, lets them know their efforts are valued, and helps keep them motivated.
Consolidating gains, producing change
Dr. Kotter warns that new methods are subject to a reversion to the old ways if leaders let their guard down too soon and assume that the major work in the change effort is complete. He indicates that leaders need to use the positive wins in the change to make further changes that support the overall vision. This is done by removing any policies and people who do not fit the vision and by hiring, developing and promoting those people and policies who do fit your vision. By doing so, you send a signal to employees and, as a result, you are able to sustain the changes.
Anchoring new approaches
Kotter indicates that it may take as much as five to 10 years for major changes to sink into a company culture. Leaders cannot let their guard down. Culture is the values, beliefs, and accepted behaviors in your feed and grain business; it is how you do things. If you are trying to change behavior in any manner (which you are with any sort of change effort), then recognize that this shift is going to take time and a sustained effort; it will be easier for some to revert to an older established, and probably comfortable, culture than to continue with a new method if pressure supporting the change is removed.
Even changing seemingly small items can be momentous tasks, so making larger, more grand-scale changes are bound to be challenging. Keep in mind though, that these mountainous tasks are not insurmountable; they just take the right equipment, a plan and sustained path on your hike to the other side.
Management vs. leadership
While the entirety of Kotter’s book provides useful thoughts on the process of leading change, one particularly enlightening discussion is Kotter’s dialogue of the differences between management and leadership. As an owner or manager of a feed or grain business, many of you probably think of yourselves as leaders. Others verbally refer to you as a leader; your position description describes many of your responsibilities as that of providing leadership in specific areas. Are you a leader? Are you a manager? Are you both?