Ed Toner

Blog: Change Leadership- linking action to one’s vision

When I started to write this blog, I thought I may have invented another new word, “Change Leadership”.  I say another because if you have ever been around me for any period of time you know that I tend to make up new words, try them out in the middle of a conversation, and then keep on going like it was already a part of our normal lexicon. 

This habit often delights and mystifies the leadership team as they scramble to google the new word or phrase in an attempt to figure out what I am talking about. ….. Yes, I have seen you consulting your cell phones during meetings. 

So in an attempt to learn from the team, I researched the title of this blog in Wikipedia before I began writing.  This is what I got.


Wikipedia Search Results


After this, Wikipedia provided a large range of search results which were a combination of Change Management and Leadership.  This was actually helpful as I meant the term to be a combination of the two topics.  All of this simply proves what many of you already know, if you never heard the phrase or word I probably made it up.   The good news is whatever I say in the following blog, no one can question its accuracy.

I have been asked lately by several sources …. What are the biggest challenges to consolidating?  The answer is very simple: Change Leadership.

As I wrote about in my last blog Change Management uses a set of defined processes and tools which limit chaos in our environment.  Change Leadership may in fact cause chaos and turmoil.  Where in Change management you push by simply requiring a change request before any action can take place, in change leadership you pull.  You can’t simply stop an action from taking place, you must make action take place by communicating a strategic vision that can be easily understood by others. Change leadership starts with having the right resources assigned to the task. You must utilize the talent, experience, and desire for change that exists within an organization. 

You do not need to be a CIO or part of the Management team to be a change leader and make a significant difference.  From my experience the best change leadership and the best ideas come from the individuals actually doing the work.  Each of you can exhibit Change leadership by asking, “Why do we do it this way?” There is always a focus on “innovation”.  In both the public and private sector innovation gets a lot of press, sometimes even when the impact may be minimal.  Primarily focusing on the next big novelty often gets in the way of basic improvements that could be more impactful and many times are the foundation that is necessary for future innovation to occur.

Recently we have been flowcharting some of our more difficult processes utilizing swim lane diagrams.  In each case the process of creating the flowchart has resulted in steps being eliminated and more efficient flows being suggested by the team members themselves. 

A very simple example from one of our recent process reviews is the elimination of logistics having to ask another team to assist in tagging equipment. The team provided evidence that they could more easily do the tagging themselves and thereby eliminate a time consuming non-value added step for another team.  The team stated that simply documenting the process is a great exercise.  They now want to publish the workflow for their customers and use it for training purposes.  During these process improvement exercises, I have never gone to a group that did not suggest their own great ideas for change and improvement.

In an attempt to become more efficient and effective in delivering IT services, change leadership causes some individuals and organizations to become uncomfortable as it challenges the norm.  The way “it has always been done”.  Change leadership often removes the individuality of an organization and replaces it with new processes and procedures that create the necessary transformation.  Change leadership cannot be established or blocked by an opinion.  A successful change leader must reinforce or challenge a process with strong evidence-based research, either supporting a vision of the end state or making the case for the status quo.  A lack of research will end the project before it can ever begin.

To be effective in change leadership and see results, you must be willing to map the direction, designate the stages to success, and find ways to convince and motivate others to embrace, or at least not block, the change. You must be the most excited person in the room, and care more about the change than anyone else.  You also must be prepared to endure the always present pessimists’ challenges to your vision in private and in public, and you personally must be willing to control the fear of speaking out and possibly being proven wrong.  However, that is exactly the response that change leadership should invoke. 

Do you find yourself now in the position of asking, “Why do we do it this way”?  If so, maybe you should overcome the fear of being proven wrong or the fear of sticking out, by building a case to challenge the way it has always been done.


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