Why CEOs need to know when not to change, as well as when to change.


Why CEOs need to know when not to change, as well as when to change.


Are you a leader that is addicted to change? Do you get carried away with the ‘razzle dazzle’ of change but then fail to see things through? Our latest blog takes a look at what CEOs need to know about change so they keep moving their company forwards, not backwards.

Change is essential for success. For a business to succeed it is critical to evolve. The products and services it offers must grow and adapt as the audience expands, new trends develop and competitors mix things up.

Which is why the best business leaders constantly seek out new strategies or tactics that may take their organisation to the next level.

But although CEOs and founders must be open to change, knowing when and how to change is just as important a skill. Leaders must be able to objectively understand when change is needed, how to make changes and, crucially, when change must be resisted.


A changing leadership

I once worked with a very progressive CEO who appreciated the value that comes from being open to new leadership techniques. He ticked many of the boxes that make a great leader: forward-thinking, open to external ideas, willing to listen to new concepts, eager to learn and willing to act.

The problem was he was addicted to change. Nothing remained constant. Just as soon as one new management practice was put in place another one would be brought it. Change was so frequent there was never enough time to see if the previous set of adjustments were getting results. It was a classic example of a leader’s behaviour having a negative impact on a company’s value.

Eventually staff stopped buying into new theories as they knew that by the time they had gotten into the rhythm of a new way of working the beat was going to change again.

Know what positive change looks like

Sometimes a change can be made because new ideas can be seductive or inspiring. But if you plan to enact change you have to know what success looks like first. Is it a defined amount of increased revenue? Is it a shorter production time? Whatever it is, you need to have defined your goals clearly. Otherwise, you are making changes with no focus on what you are changing for and how to work towards the end goal.

Change must be measured, evaluated and compared to what came before. Set yourself goals, benchmarks and KPIs before your revolution. This is how you figure out what aspects of your new regime is having a positive impact and what changes are not matching up to what you hoped and need refining.

Simple changes are often the best

If something feels complex, it probably is. Plenty of management theories or radical new company structure models may work fine in the ink of a textbook or in the razzle dazzle of a conference presentation, but may not hold up as well in the real world.

If communicating potential change to your stakeholders and staff is complicated, then most likely the system you are bringing in is overly-complicated. Complexity rarely works under pressure. Simple and practical real-world change almost always beats complex theory. And sometimes, small changes are all you need.

Is your team able to change?

Even if a strategy or idea is sound, you must have the team in place to put it into action. Don’t force systems onto staff who are not suited for the role they need to play in the new environment.

If you have a young, inexperienced team, asking them to run a system that requires large amounts of self-sufficiency will likely break down as individuals may lack the confidence or knowledge to make good decisions without guidance. Pretty soon you’ll see a drop in both performance and morale.

Have a clear picture of the talent and abilities of your team and be 100% sure the new process will fit their core skill-set. You can’t force it.

Commit to change

If you have carefully weighed up the case for change and are confident you have the people and resources to put it into action, then you must commit.

It takes time to see results and time for people to get used to a new way of working. You can’t panic if things don’t seem to immediate improve or if early mistakes are made.

Staying power is vital. As a leader you have to display confidence in the course you have set. If you don’t, who will?

Explain your thinking

You must get buy in from your team on why you are making changes. If they don’t understand what you are trying to do, how can you expect them to be motivated to overcome teething problems?

Explain clearly why a new process or tactic is needed and why you think the new method will work. Get feedback from people you trust (and act on it). Think of it as pre-emptive troubleshooting. Once you’ve had outside influence then you can set out your plan and decide whether to put it into action.

Change must be about progress

Leaders need to make the decisions that move their organisation forward. Change is at the core of good leadership. But change will only lead you upwards if it’s done in the right way, for the right reasons at the right time.

Change, as they say, is good. But only if it’s the right change done the right way.