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Change leadership can be demanding. Nevertheless, the ability to navigate change is a crucial leadership skill. I have been leading and coaching complex change initiatives with executive leaders, senior managers and front-line teams around the globe for more than a decade. I also bake artisan sourdough bread and teach an online sourdough bread course. It is surprising how much these two topics intertwine.
Meshing personal and professional skills for better fulfillment in life
Do we need strict boundaries between our personal and professional interests? I have discovered that they feed each other splendidly! For example, I often apply my standardization and lean improvement knowledge to my baking process for more consistent results.
This made me realize that skills are transferable, as long as I give myself the freedom to apply them wherever needed. Here is another example: I developed an online course on “How to create a sourdough starter in 7 days” using my years of change management training expertise. It surprised me when my course gained more than 50 students from 14 countries in just a few months! So, let’s simplify a complex and multilayered change process with sourdough bread baking.
What are the key ingredients for navigating successful change? Here are some tried and tested ingredients to initiate, strategize and execute successful change as a starter:
1. Gain proactive executive leadership commitment
Active leadership is the dynamic force of successful change. Executive leadership commitment is key. They project the vision and determine the tone when they set the change wheel in motion. The most successful change initiatives I have seen had the executive leaders (C-suite) in the driver’s seat.
Without a starter, the dough will not rise to become bread. Without executive leader sponsorship, the effort will not bring about a successful change.
2. Become inclusive leaders to create a change tribe
Successful change requires key players of that change to be part of it. There is no other way about it! Like every ingredient of the bread — flour, water and salt must be included. Inclusive leaders create conditions in which key staff are part of the change journey, and they encourage teams to work together, solve problems and be innovative.
Being an inclusive leader means much more than communicating. It means engagement, connection, relationships and active listening to hear diverse viewpoints. There must be respect and trust in the work environment where everyone’s voice matters beyond hierarchy, titles, gender or background. Everyone matters, and every ingredient is key.
3. Develop change management capability
Change requires specific knowledge, and a round of experts will increase the likelihood of success. For instance, a change lead — also known as change agent — is the steady hand, who provides facilitation, training and support. Monitoring change requires project management input, as often we see simultaneous change projects. The local expert (i.e., department leads, operational managers, administrative leads) serves as a local knowledge source who drives change while being supported by the project office and change lead.
I support change programs more intensively in the beginning, and as we work together, the leads and their teams gain skills to implement change and spread their knowledge into future projects.
Creating organizational change capability takes time, effort and energy — it took months to get my first sourdough loaf with a crispy crust and a perfect tangy flavor.
4. Measure the change
Experimenting with anything new is great! However, without measurement, the bread loaves will not taste the best, and our change program will not deliver what our customers want. Measuring allows us to understand if our change is making a difference or not.
Change metrics are our levers to track the progress and effectiveness of our change journey. It is the story of our success — or failure. It either makes or breaks the baking process, too!
5. Align with the art and science of change management
When the human side of change and technicalities are both considered, it provides the best results. Success needs human input. It is crucial to consider and mix all ingredients of the sourdough bread, but success lies within the baker’s intuition.
Tools, techniques, frameworks and methodologies are all significant contributors of organizational change only when people are able and willing to make use of them.
Change leadership means leading differently and creating an environment where people can challenge the status quo and initiate change. The result is better for all — the clients, customers, service users, staff and productivity.
Create the ideal conditions with key ingredients first, and change will become easier. The sweet smell of a tasty loaf from the oven is a product of all the ingredients working in harmony. The result is a happy home.
My professional background continues to benefit my sourdough bread baking, and my baking influences my change journeys. I would like to invite you to connect one of your joyful hobbies with your professional passion. In my case, I will continue baking my way into coaching change, as they are both thrilling.