UnCLE helps organizations achieve sustainable excellence through change

Good leaders must not only anticipate change, but also determine the impact it will have on their organizations. They must navigate numerous internal and external factors to determine what needs to be changed and to ensure that the change is not only implemented, but sustained and built upon. Often, leaders do not take into consideration these intricacies and overlap that accompany wholesale change.

Out of my four decades in leadership, I have identified what I call the Uninterrupted Cycle of Leadership Effectiveness, or UnCLE, a self-propagating system of organizational development. UnCLE helps to incorporate change into the fabric of the organization, as opposed to focusing on it peripherally. 

Identify the cause for action

UnCLE does this by first applying appreciative inquiry, a process for questioning the current status and future of an organization. This process helps to ask targeted questions that distinguish what currently exists, what is working and what can be improved (and how). 

The results from the appreciative inquiry process lead to identifying causes for action, or trends and predicaments that may be disruptive to an organization. This is not done in isolation; rather, it must be data-driven and developed with participation by key stakeholders. For example, Cuyahoga Community College’s work to improve graduation numbers and rates over the past five years began with honest conversations among the faculty and administration — not to point fingers or assign blame but to acknowledge that the numbers at the time did not reflect the self-regarding, success-driven institution we all wanted to represent.

Identify strategy and tactics

Next, UnCLE helps to identify short-term and long-term solutions to address the cause for action. These steps must be actionable and measurable. Again, this requires involvement from across the organization, building on national best practices and innovating internally. While Tri-C drew from our organizational memberships to learn what was working at other colleges, we also developed our own models and programs that have been at the forefront of national student success efforts.  

Measure success

A leader following the UnCLE framework then measures the outcomes to determine if the remedies were effective. Celebrating these results, even if incremental, builds momentum for further substantive change and increased organizational capacity.

Introduce organizational refinements
and innovation

And finally, UnCLE builds upon these outcomes to introduce the next wave of organizational refinements and innovations. Rather than allowing success to calcify an organization, leaders must focus on how to effectively implement and sustain growth. Effective leaders will determine the next iteration of response to the current cause for action or raise the banner on an emerging disruption to engage it early and decisively. 

By integrating this framework into the operations and culture of an organization, a strong leader can embrace and leverage change. Rather than grappling with change as a matter of survival, it can become a springboard to greatness.

This is from Alex Johnson’s book “Change the Lapel Pin,” published by Smart Business Books, which is available through Tri-C campus bookstores or online at www.tri-c.edu/changethelapelpin.