Organizational Change and the Manager’s Role: Changing the Chart + Changing the Heart

by John J. Scherer and Amy Barnes


The Chart / Heart Challenge
When we work with leaders in changing their organisations, we tell them, ‘There are two things that need to happen in this process: ‘changing the chart and changing the heart’. This is to remind them that changing the chart is relatively easy—get a few smart people in a room with a large white board, some markers, and the courage to make difficult choices. But changing the heart is another matter altogether—and is crucial to the success of any desired change. Until the ‘heart’ changes, until people come together to passionately and effectively embrace their new realities, nothing actually changes.

Change as a ‘Leadership Moment’
Changing the chart can be accomplished with wise and brave management. Changing the heart is a leadership assignment, a ‘moment’ in an organization’s life when everyone needs to start thinking and acting like a leader committed to ultimate success. Changing the chart is a somewhat linear process with clear steps and indicators of success. Changing the heart is an ambiguous process that follows no hard and fast rules as each person must find their own way from holding on to the way things were to letting go and helping create the way they could be. This is a leadership attitude, and only managers who can access the leader inside can awaken it in other people.

Managers: You ARE the Communication
We often say to leaders in turbulent times, ‘You are the communication’. This is especially true in a change process, when people become acutely sensitive to all points of data, ‘tuning in’ most carefully to their managers. Therefore, how managers are, not just what they say, is the most powerful transmitter of the ‘real’ meaning of what is happening, far more impactful than all the official emails, speeches and formal communication ‘selling’ the change. If managers are disregarding their own doubts and fears concerning the change initiative, their true feelings will ‘leak out’. A crucial task then for managers, as this article suggests, is to strike a balance between being real and human and being optimistic and hopeful.

Change: When Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Things
But hopeful does not mean just repeating the ‘company line’. If that were the case, no leadership would be required. Rather, commitment to a change comes from engaging with all aspects that are present—‘the good, the bad and the ugly’. Hope is a choice. It means choosing to see opportunity embedded in the chaos. This is not simply personal opportunism. It is embracing the moment to contribute to others, to serve what we call a ‘greater purpose’. Crises like mergers or re-organizations have the potential to call out our ‘higher self’, a chance for ordinary people to do extraordinary things. This is what we regard as the essence of change leadership.


read also: Contribution