Change Leadership is the Key to Change Management in the Digital Era
Change management vs. change leadership: If I asked you to explain the difference between these terms, could you?
It isn’t a trick question. These two concepts might appear synonymous, and they are often used interchangeably. But there’s a significant difference between them, and it’s not just semantics.
One isn’t better than the other — in the digital age, businesses need both change management and change leadership.
Most people are familiar with the former. But even though change management is the more frequently used term, change leadership is just as critical.
Companies need change leadership in order to carry out transformations quickly and with minimal disruption. If you can’t change, you can’t evolve. And if you don’t evolve, it won’t be long before your company becomes obsolete in the eyes of your customers.
Change management vs. change leadership. What’s the difference?
Think of organizational transformation as the voyage from point A to point B. Change management is the airplane, the mechanics that take you there. Your change managers are the flight crew, which attends to individual passengers’ needs over the course of the flight.
The pilot represents change leadership. It’s up to him or her to set the route, steer the plane, and provide updates along the way. While they aren’t involved in every happening that occurs in the cabin during the trip, they are the architects of the overall flight plan.
Let’s break it down even more. At its core, change management refers to the tools or methods that keep change efforts under control, minimize disruption, prevent employee resistance, and stick to the budget. A solid change management infrastructure is critical for executing specific projects, such as a software implementation or new workflow, that are part of a larger transformation effort.
Change leadership is a critical trait for CEOs, CIOs, and other C-suiters. It’s about creating a clear vision of the company’s future, and developing practical steps to achieve it.
Change leadership includes defining goals, articulating strategy, and empowering the workforce to reach its highest potential. Change leaders are the driving forces and momentum that enables large-scale change, such as digital transformation.
The challenges of the digital age demand change leadership
As the pace of technological development picks up, businesses need to increase their capacity for change in order to meet new challenges and satisfy consumer demands. If leaders can’t keep their companies up to speed, they risk losing out to the competition.
Change leadership is required to decide where, when, and how to embrace digital disruption. Leaders must have the judgement to decide which innovations will best serve the organization’s goals, and the foresight to predict where the next hurdle will come from.
Whether or not a company wins or loses in the digital era depends on it.
Three priorities for change leadership
1. Monitor trends and emerging tech
You can’t diagnose what needs to change if you don’t keep a pulse on what’s happening both inside and outside of the organization.
- What market forces and trends are driving the industry?
- What internal challenges are preventing you from keeping up?
- What changes are your competitors already making?
If you haven’t yet embarked on digital transformation, it’s time. And if you’re already on the road to digital maturity, determine which areas of the business model can benefit from new digital tools.
For instance, how can emerging technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning improve operational efficiency? How can you use it to boost the customer experience?
2. Optimize your current assets
When it comes to driving digital transformation, change leadership extends beyond selecting new enterprise software. It includes post-implementation, maintaining employee proficiency demands ongoing effort and strategy.
Best-of-breed enterprise software offers many high level features. But without adequate training, employees won’t be able to take advantage of these capabilities. Cloud-based software makes this challenge even more difficult to overcome, as updates and new features are rolled out frequently.
To make the most of your tech investment, you need an effective digital solution that enables continuous software learning.
A Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) is the surest way to achieve a high ROI on your software investment. A DAP uses contextual guidance to deliver personalized navigational support at the time of need. With a DAP, users can learn to use digital tools at their highest capability while actually completing tasks.
3. Determine what kind of change is needed
A key change leadership trait is having the ability to discern when innovation will bring value, and when it is merely superfluous.
You can’t buy every shiny new toy startups put out there. At the same time, you must always be evolving. In the digital era, change leadership means keeping an eye on the trends, but being selective about which ones to adopt.
Every change you make should answer a question.
- What challenge will this change help us solve?
- How will this change empower the workforce?
- How will this change raise productivity?
- How will it make us more competitive?
Be a change leader and thrive in the digital age
The development of digital tools is accelerating the pace of change across all industries at an unprecedented speed.
Companies must be prepared to pivot their business strategies at the drop of a dime.
They need the infrastructure in place to guide change and minimize employee resistance. But even more importantly, they need leadership to envision a new future, and empower the workforce to embrace realize it.