Organizational change leadership needed: experience and expertise required

By William Seidman Two situations I watched recently got me thinking about the knowledge required to transform an organization. My wife is a docent at the Portland Art Museum. The Docent Council consists of those knowledgable and helpful guides you may have encountered the last time you visited a museum. They lead tours for the love of art and art education; they’re trained volunteers.  The PMA Docent Council is working to solve some problems with the scheduling of the tours its members lead. The  people leading this change are completely committed to the museum, but they’re struggling with how to enact this needed change within this all-volunteer group. In a parallel situation, we’re working with a team that has, in the past, been very effective at putting on sales conventions. They have recently been charged with creating a sweeping change in a global sales force. Like the art educators, they are completely committed to the good of the organization, but they’re struggling with how to lead the change. Leadership to successfully guide a change requires extensive experience and expertise. Inexperienced leaders don’t know what they don’t know — and therefore make a lot of mistakes, some of which can be fatal to the organization’s ability to make that change. I find that ad hoc leaders (versus really qualified leaders) tend to overvalue their experiences of having been part of a change to leading a change. Would you assume that you can perform surgery simply becaue you’ve had surgery? Of course not! Many executives – people accustomed to a leadership role – assume that since they know the business and have seen the business go through many changes, that they know how to lead a change.  But significant organizational transformation requires specialized leadership and experience.]]>

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