There’s a lot of talk about change management at the moment – typically accompanied by other buzzwords such as VUCA (shorthand for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) and disruption. Organisations are hurriedly bringing together crack teams of consultants to help them navigate these stormy seas.
But while there’s no denying the economic, political and work climate is evolving rapidly and often at a pace that’s hard to keep up with, this is not the time to fight change with initiatives. Change management is no longer an episodic event in organisations – it’s a constant – and this is why it’s inappropriate to deal with it in a one-off way.
A sustainable response to change is to get everyone in the organisation involved. By all means appoint a change or transformation director, but don’t make how you deal with change something separate from your day-to-day business. Leaders need to engage everyone by articulating the change – ‘this is where we are now, this is where we’re going, this is how we’re going to get there.’ They are transparent about the challenges along the way and role model the behaviours and values that will help them overcome those challenges. Furthermore, change management is not just one function or team – it covers everything from organisational design, to service redesign, to learning and development’s approach to reskilling people to deal with these new realities.
Why is organisation-wide change management so important? We only have to look at how the high street has responded (or rather, not) to dramatic changes in the way consumers shop. Every week we read stories about the likes of Maplin and Toys R Us closing their doors and leaving thousands of jobs at risk. They’d stopped seeing things from their customers’ perspective. Instead, ensuring everyone in your organisation (whether they’re on the front line or not) puts your customers/clients/users’ needs first should be your priority when it comes to dealing with change. This way, we implement change “as units of one” – so if everyone made their behaviour more customer-focused by just 2%, this then has a powerful impact on your revenue and reputation.
It’s not just the retail sector either that has found it difficult to deal with the constant barrage of change. IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that only 33% of executives thought their organisation was above average at dealing with change, and 14% (about one in eight) said they were below average. Those who were confident about their change management capabilities tended to be from higher-performing organisations.
Technology can be a powerful tool both in how you communicate change and how your organisation deals with it. Your growing band of millennial employees are used to sharing their activities via social channels, and expect more regular feedback from their employers on how they’re doing and where they fit in. This is only more important in a climate where there’s a great deal of change. WorkPAL – an innovative digital organisational development tool – can help teams understand their role in where the organisation is going, even when the goalposts keep changing.
Leaders set the tone for change, and tools such as WorkPAL can help them cascade this across the whole organisation. Objectives can be aligned to values and goals, and leaders can see in real-time how different teams are performing against those targets. They can see those small increments (those units of one) adding up before their eyes, and act quickly where parts of the organisation are failing to keep up with the pace of change. Because everyone understands what’s needed to meet those goals, responding to change becomes part of the DNA of the organisation rather than something “led” by a change management department or initiative.
No one is equipped with change management skills from the get-go, after all – it’s not something we study at school. I believe that the best leaders of change see themselves a bit like midwives: they can’t have the “baby” themselves, but they are responsible and accountable for change to happen. They work with others to ensure the change is delivered. They also leave a legacy. Old school, command and control leadership stifles change by directing people what to do. Agile leaders respond to change by empowering employees to meet the goals the organisation needs not only survive but be successful. If they leave the organisation, they do so having embedded resilience to change as a core part of its culture.
WorkPAL can also help to embed those change skills and behaviours. Employees can access learning and development aligned to their own personal objectives, and use the social side of the app to share learning with colleagues. They can share a video of how they’ve put customers first, for example, or upload feedback from a client in an instant. Colleagues see how they’re embodying change and mirror it in their own behaviours – those units of one all add up.
There’s that quote from Einstein about insanity being doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. This also applies to how you survive and thrive in today’s changing environment. By making how you and your teams respond to change more intuitive – instead of pushing change management initiatives – it’s possible to avoid becoming a casualty of change.
Talk to us about how WorkPAL can harness digital and social technology to provide a real-time view of performance and “change readiness” in your organisation – and help it become more agile and responsive in the future.