A Matrix Approach
Tools for Leading the Team in Implementing Change
By Jean Darling, PT, DPT
At times, change is required in a company for the good of the whole. If this is the case, why do we struggle sometimes to lead our team in the direction of change and other times we look like a rock star? Employers and owners can choose from lots of tools when they want to encourage employees to work together toward a new corporate goal. One of the rarest managerial skills is the ability to understand which tools will work in a given situation and which will misfire. Knowledge is not ability, although it’s easy to confuse the two. You can think of knowledge as the body of information while ability is the competence to apply the knowledge. In this sense, you can see the direction a company may need to go, but the path to get there, with your employees in tow or leading the way, may not be easy.
Cooperation tools fall into four major categories: power, leadership, management, and culture. Choosing the right tool requires assessing the organization along two critical dimensions: the extent to which people agree on what they want and the extent to which they agree on cause and effect, or how to get what they want. The authors noted encourage us to plot on a matrix where your organization may fall along these two dimensions.1 If you plot this matrix you can see that employees represented in the lower-left quadrant of the model, for example, would represent those who disagree strongly both about what they want and on what actions will produce which results. Those in the upper-right quadrant agree on both dimensions. The endgame of this analysis makes it clear that different quadrants call for different tools. When employees share little consensus on either dimension, for instance, the only methods that will bring about cooperation are power tools such as force, coercion, and threats. In given situations, these are the tools that lead to successful change and may be the only way to accomplish this. Evidently, this is the tactic that was employed by Jamie Dimon, current CEO of JPMorgan Chase, during the bank’s integration with Bank One.2 For employees who agree on what they want but not on how to get it, leadership tools like vision statements will most likely be more appropriate.
If people agree strongly on cause and effect but little on what they want, leaders can employ management tools such as training and measurement systems. Companies in which employees agree on both dimensions of the matrix, and are thus generally happy with the current flow of the organization, have very strong cultures and therefore are difficult to change. If this is the current culture of your work environment, it is possible to tweak direction only. To accomplish this you may use culture tools such as creating rituals and customs. Other tools that managers may have at their disposal are negotiation and financial incentives.
According to a Forbes article, there is little question that successful implementation of change can create extreme competitive advantage, but it is not always well understood how to get started. Identifying and discussing the change lifecycle will help a company plot out the direction in which they need to venture. Begin with 3 easy steps; focus on identifying need for change, assisting to lead change, and managing change.3 Some leaders are blessed with an instinct for choosing the right tools; others can use this framework to help select the most appropriate tools for their circumstances.
Managers or owners can choose from a variety of tools to implement change; these may include punishment or reward. Success lies in choosing the right tool to match the situation at hand!
1. Christianson C. The tools of cooperation. Harvard Business Review. Oct. 2006; 1-10.
2. Sirkin H, Keenan P, Jackson A. The hard side of change management. Harvard Business Review. Oct. 2005; 3-5.
3. Myatt M. How to lead change: 3 simple steps. Forbes. Feb. 7, 2012.
Jean Darling, PT, DPT, is a PPS member and co-owner of Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine in Wisconsin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.