Characteristic #16: Leading Transitions (Part 2)

By | October 2, 2013

[October 2, 2013]  In Part 1 of this blog on “Leading Transitions”, we saw that the way to ensure a smooth change and reduce the risk involved, is to learn from others’ mistakes.

Part 2 of this blog will go into more detail about the lessons learned.

With a weakened and changing economy (e.g., technological advances), it is not that hard to see why the subject of transitions is so popular.  Add to this mix a government “shutdown” yesterday and we have a level of uncertainty that will get anyone’s attention.

For any organization to remain relevant, ready, responsive, and reliable1 in this environment, it must be flexible and agile enough to adapt.  This requires a conscious recognition that change may occur, plan for it, and be prepared to execute it with vigor.

Senior executive leaders will be required to lead the way and must be prepared to coach others in their organization through the transition.  To create a great plan is important but our employees will not be so easily swayed.

Some specific lessons learned reagarding transitions:

  • Must have a dynamic and flexible plan
  • Plan and rehearse the plan
  • Have a high level of communications
  • Have a clear and compelling vision
  • Depends on effective senior leadership
  • Know that it rarely goes according to plan
  • People will resist
  • Moral courage is required
  • Timing is important
  • Requires intense focus by the team
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Get advice from alumni
  • Takes longer than planned

This is where senior executive leadership is so important.  Most senior leaders have earned their way to high-level positions in part because they came from backgrounds where operational, technical, or financial skills were paramount.

Yet these backgrounds do not necessarily prepare the senior leader for a major transition.  The senior leader must be mentally prepared to understand two important things.

First, the senior leader is part of the transition process and being so it gives us a myopic view during its progression.  The leader must recognize this and put into place mechanisms that help them keep a clear view of what is happening in the organization.

Second, transitions are more about people than anything else.  Senior leaders often overlook this fact and stumble through organizational change repeating mistakes of other companies.  Recognizing this early and studying other organizations will be helpful.

Senior executive leadership is about knowing and leading people.  By understanding your employees and treating them right during the transition, success will follow.


[1] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers motto.



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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