Leading Change

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What to Expect From a Corporate Lean Program

“Lean” programs help many manufacturers boost productivity. But misplaced expectations of how quickly these programs can improve performance can make their implementation difficult. Better understanding of the rates at which lean programs produce improvements would make implementation go more smoothly — and lead to more increases in productivity. Managers should set targets that are appropriate to specific plants and be careful not to derail progress by using initial gains to lay off workers.

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Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon Attack

As the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings draws near, the response of leaders in the public sphere offers some lessons for the effective use of social media — which has shown itself repeatedly in recent years to be the key means of communication during a crisis. Six specific lessons on how to manage crisis communications via social media can be drawn from the Boston Marathon crisis and its aftermath.

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Avoiding Layoff Blunders

It’s surprisingly common for companies to make mistakes in their layoff decisions — and those mistakes can be expensive for both the individuals affected and the organization. Fortunately, simply by avoiding five common decision-related problems, businesses can do better.

Image courtesy of Adriana Cisneros

The Art of Strategic Renewal

What does it take to transform an organization before a crisis hits? How can leaders initiate major transformations proactively? The key often lies in strategic renewal — a set of practices that can guide leaders into a new era of innovation by building strategy, experimentation and execution into the day-to-day fabric of the organization. It’s not easy: leaders find it much easier to resist change than to embrace it.

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Are Companies Ready for the New Global Executive?

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HR executives believe that tomorrow’s leaders will need to be more diverse than today’s and that there are special challenges to that need. A survey of 197 human resource executives from global companies finds that “leaders from highly diverse backgrounds will need to work together more effectively.” The challenge is that diverse groups often have more disagreements than homogeneous groups, demanding proactive skill development in group dynamics.

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Five Steps To Leading Change Successfully

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Before making a change, you need to identify the influencers who can push the project forward — or who can cause it to stall. “Left unattended, skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process,” write Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom.

Their solution is a five-step, proactive process designed to help leaders navigate both the politics and the emotions that are churned up by heading in new directions. The steps include mapping the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving the most influential of them.

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Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change

Skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process. But proactively addressing these types of feelings can ease resistance and disengagement. Research shows that executives can successfully initiate change initiatives by mapping the political landscape to identify the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and the key influencers within each stakeholder group. They should also involve influential early adopters and engage with skeptics.

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From the Editor: Creating and Leading Change

Consumers are driving change for retailers. As the new article “Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing” notes, “Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing.” Meanwhile, “The Executive’s Role in Social Business” notes that while C-suite executives see social business as an opportunity, they are having a hard time turning that potential into reality.

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How to Change an Organization Without Blowing It Up

Too often, organizational change occurs all at once, on a large scale, and often in response to crisis. Yet we know from a great deal of experience that such transformation attempts often fail, fostering employee discontent and producing mediocre solutions with little lasting impact.

Continuously pursuing smaller-scale changes — and weaving them together — offers a practical middle path between large-scale transformation and small-scale pilot projects

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Chip Heath on Making Change Easier

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We all know change is hard -- and so people resist it. Right?

Well, maybe not always. Chip Heath, a professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, gave an insightful presentation on that theme earlier this month at the World Innovation Forum conference in New York.

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Michael Watkins Answers Your Questions

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Earlier this month we told you we'd be interviewing Michael Watkins, author of Your Next Move. We invited you to submit questions to Watkins, an expert in leadership transitions. Here, as promised, are his responses.

Let's start with a turnaround question.

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Overcoming innovation hurdles

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What’s one of the challenges to successful management or process innovation in an existing business? The array of organizational structures that are designed to keep current processes running smoothly.

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Enabling Bold Visions

A CEO’s new vision often blurs into an indistinct image once the initial blitz is over. To ensure that the vision is more than just a daydream, companies should follow a five-phase model that some organizations have used successfully to avoid disaster or complacency.

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The Rhythm of Change

A generation of managers is obsessed with the idea of dramatic, turbulent change. This is misguided hype, say the authors. Drawing on management literature, history and company examples such as IBM, General Electric and British Airways, they contend that a sensible framework for change must recognize the subtle interplay of its various forms as well as the importance of stability and continuity.

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Leading in Unnerving Times

Warren Bennis and a panel of experts in leadership development discuss the “legitimization of doubt,” which frees managers to admit they don’t know everything and to begin the serious learning that improves competitiveness. “Most managers find it unnerving to be thrown into situations they can’t anticipate,” says Bennis. “Accustomed to being on top of everything, they are now experiencing doubt. And they should be.”

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