Articles - Leadership & Change Management
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An interview with Mathis Schulte, Associate Professor in Management and Human Resources at HEC Paris.
In the context of digital transformation, companies need to embrace change before it becomes inevitable and foster a culture of adaptability and learning. All too often change occurs when companies have no other option: in dire financial situations, after a public scandal or an organizational crisis. Too often it is then too late to turn the company around because change requires time and a clear vision of what the change should look like.
Most leaders have difficulties in questioning themselves and effecting change because they are trained to focus on short-term goals and quick fixes to emerging problems. This mindset can make it difficult to understand that organizational change is not a short-term event but an ongoing process that requires time and commitment at all levels of the organization. Sometimes leaders also tend to look at change from a limited perspective, just focusing on the strategic or financial aspects while overlooking the human factor.
When it comes to change, all-powerful leaders can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can accelerate change by making the necessary tough decisions to push forward. On the other hand, all-powerful leaders may dictate change without the input and involvement of the workforce. Employees will then be compliant with the leader, but they will not be committed to the change. They will look for ways to return to their old habits or even sabotage the change effort.
The more employees are involved in the decision making, the more they ‘own’ the change process and are supportive of it."
Instead of relying on simple recipes of how to deal with change, change leaders need to embrace its complexity and be prepared to deal with its erratic nature. This requires flexibility in thinking and behavior. They need to rethink their assumptions about change and reflect critically on their previous behavior by:
exploring alternative frameworks
introducing new lenses through which change can be understood
expanding their behavioral repertoire to deal with new situations.
Mathis Schulte, Associate Professor in Management and Human Resources at HEC Paris, and Professor in the Consulting & Coaching for Change program delivered by HEC Paris and Said Business School, University of Oxford.