The Change Stops Here

Where does the “buck” stop with change?  I’ll tell you where I think it stops… with your front line leaders.

To beat some phrases “with a stick,” the front line leader is where “the rubber meets the road.”  If your organization is struggling implementing change, consider checking with the front line leaders.

Front line leaders typically have the responsibility to:

  • Communicate the reasoning for the change
  • Help employees adjust to the change
  • Help employees make the change a reality
  • Adjust the way they are managing in response to the change
  • Be accountable for the results of the change
  • And they still have to get their job done.

Some Truth

I hate to say it, but if a change makes the front line leader’s job harder and they aren’t sold on the long-term value of the change, the change just ain’t gonna happen.

Ironic, isn’t it?  That your organization’s least experienced leaders have the most influence on the success or failure of your change initiatives?

Throw in the fact that people naturally don’t  want to change and it’s not surprising that workplace change can end up getting “enforced” rather than being adopted and improved over time.

So what can mid-level and senior leaders do to help the front line leaders? They can give a lot to make sure better results are achieved in change initiatives!

Senior Leaders can Provide:

• Education

If your organization isn’t offering learning opportunities to front line leaders around change management, conflict resolution, effective communication, performance management, etc., it may be time to start.

• Tools

Take a structured approach to change  that provides tools at every level of the organization.  Not just tools to “manage change” but also tools to recognize successes and progress with the change or tools to get the job done better within the context of the change.

• Support and a Voice

Find out what obstacles there are to the change. Listen to their suggestions related to fine-tuning the change. Seek to understand specifically how the change affects them and each of their employees. Help them find why the change is meaningful for their employees and how it connects to each person’s job.  Seek to discover these types of things through participation and observation, not just through discussion. If you don’t put energy into this kind of support, people will begin to “work around” the change.

• Time

Establish timeframes that break the change down into smaller segments to create forward movement, gain successes, and to avoid a complete stall.  Forward movement reduces resistance and also decreases the panic sometimes associated with an “overwhelming” change.

• Resources

Things like information, technologies, access to people with the skill sets to execute the change, etc.are all needed in the hands of front line managers to be successful. Avoid resources or exceptions that allow people to “just finish this one last thing” before they begin work within the new paradigm.

• New Paths

Remove organizational obstacles– if organizational systems and processes are reinforcing the “old” way of doing things, it is very difficult for the “new” way to succeed or sustain itself over time.

It isn’t easy being a front line leader. Nor is it easy to make decisions that initiate organization-wide change. So senior leaders should be proactive in equipping front line leaders to be successful with proper tools, eduction, planning, and resources.

After all, front line leaders hold the real control.

As a front line leader, what other suggestions do you have for senior leaders?  What else could senior leaders do to help make sure a change initiative’s success?  Are any of the above tips more important to you than others?  If so, why?  Where do you think the “buck stops” with change in your organization? I’d love to hear your stories!

Bookmark The Change Stops Here

Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

Email | LinkedIn | Blog

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2 responses to “The Change Stops Here

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Change Stops Here « Linked 2 Leadership --·

  2. Great article! I like how you broke down the necessary components for a change effort. The one area that I notice people ignoring during a major change effort is the recognition and rewards. We don’t spend enough time recognizing those front line leaders that are implementing change successfully and we don’t recognize the employees that are putting forth the effort along the way. When people feel valued for making the extra effort (and we all know implementing change is a huge effort) they are more willing to continue and even spread the enthusiasm.

    Senior leaders need to be visible during a change initiative and consciously spend time recognizing (and listening to) the front line leaders as well as the employees responsible for the change.


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