Experience has taught me that successfully implementing significant out of the box change initiatives depends on the strong leadership of a chief executive officer wearing what I call the “Innovator-in-Chief” hat. CEOs I’ve observed over the years succeed at the Innovator-in-Chief role have without exception been what I think of as “change-savvy.” This means that:
They’ve been technically very knowledgeable about best practices in the rapidly changing area of change planning and management, which means they haven’t been wedded to conventional planning wisdom and out-of-date approaches. You’ll never hear a change-savvy CEO extolling the virtues of traditional long-range (or “strategic”) planning as a change tool, much less catch him or her fondling a ten pound five-year plan.
- They’ve realized that successfully bringing off out-of-the-box change against all odds requires that they make leading the change planning and implementation process a top-tier priority. In practice, this means that the change-savvy CEO makes a firm commitment of time to leading change from the top, and never tries to delegate one piece or another of this leadership role to lieutenants.
- And they’ve recognized that leading out-of-the-box change as Innovator-in-Chief of the organization is more psychological and political in nature than technical. Not only do these change-savvy CEOs understand that fear is more often than not at the heart of staff resistance to change, they also take strong, visible steps to allay that fear, for example through the clear articulation of vision and other motivational steps that are intended to inspire and energize participants in the change process.
John Andoh, Executive Director/CEO of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (the Comet) in Columbia, South Carolina, is playing the Innovator-in-Chief role with gusto on the mobility front, as the podcast we recently recorded for this blog indicates. You’ll hear John describe three initiatives that are yielding an impressive return on the Comet’s investment in innovation: two involve partnerships with Lyft and Uber to provide on-demand transportation at night and to area fresh food markets; the third is a bikeshare program to address first mile/last mile transportation gaps. More initiatives are in the offing at the Comet on Innovator-in-Chief John Andoh’s watch. So stay tuned, dear colleagues!