Change Management as an outdated concept
I feel that I should start this Blog by apologising to all my former tutors as well as my current peers and students as I urge organisations to dismiss the notions that theorists, consultants and business schools throw out to describe how ‘complex’ and ‘laborious’ managing the change process is. It’s not that I don’t believe there is merit in understanding the principles behind natural tendencies that cause resistance to change or the effective processes to try and reduce such resistance BUT I do argue that the place for arduously following the numerous models and cycles when making any change remains back in time when change was unique, unusual and certainly not the everyday norm. Why? Because according to Gallup, despite this understanding and these models being in place, 70% of change initiatives fail and in the main this appears to be because the process is too complex (there is not enough understanding) too time consuming (corners are cut and steps are not followed) and more focus is made around the process rather than the communication element.
Why is this an issue?
Well, aside from the fact that 70% of organisations are causing destructive disruption which will inevitably take longer and more resource to ‘fix’ (once trust is broken this is a whole different issue to resolve); in this day and age, business agility (or more specifically a business’s ability to rapidly and continuously respond to the changing requirements of all its stakeholders) is a vitally important component in the success or demise of organisations. We only have to look at the seemingly rapid demise of ‘reputable and stable’ organisations such as Toys R Us and House of Fraser – to see how the lack of ability to change quickly and continuously can affect an organisation’s future. And remember, these are organisations who had the resources and funds to bring in the best brains and advisers to help steer the process.
What then about the SME’s who have to rely on internal resources to try and make sense of the numerous models before them? It’s no wonder so many companies fail.
So why change the process of change?
The thing is, not only has the world changed dramatically in the last 100 years, but the pace of change is speeding up exponentially. Whilst the makeup of the workforce was shaken up as a result of World War I and II, between 1910 and the 1960’s the nature and type of roles remained fairly consistent (domestic service; mills and factories; teachers; law enforcers; medical staff; bankers and shopkeepers) and conditions were relatively poor and primitive. Administrative roles started to grow alongside the progression of technology in the 1970’s, but it was the disruptive forces of the 1980’s and the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 that changed the world forever. Until this point change was slow, could be planned and measured and failure just meant slower progress. I recognise I’m showing my age now, but I remember ‘jobs for life’, it being frowned on to move around (either jobs or suppliers) and failure being disgraceful and something
to be ashamed of. Roll forward 20 years and according to research most jobs in the market today didn’t exist in the 1990s and in 10 years’ time it is predicted that 60% of the jobs will be completely new to those available today. Whole industries are being disrupted, new skills need to be learned and companies need to innovate to keep up with or preferably stay ahead of the disruptors.
Don’t get me wrong, the concept of change hasn’t changed. It can still be incremental or transformational, it can still be planned or reactive and there are still internal and external triggers for change. But as Dawson and Andriopoulos teach in their 2014 book ‘Managing change, creativity and innovation’ ‘without change, creativity remains just an idea or a dream, which means that without change innovation can’t take place’ and businesses stand still. But where do you start when the below (according to Dawson and Andriopoulos, 2014) are just some of the many ‘theories’ out there that relate to ‘successful change’? I have a first-class MBA in business and even I struggle to make sense of some of these.
So, what should companies do to ensure continual and successful change and innovation?
Focus on developing and living a culture of innovation (for tips and tricks see my earlier blog)
Introduce a culture and systems where knowledge is shared openly, horizontally and vertically
Continually scan the external environment – formally (ideally annually as a minimum – think of an annual business MOT) and informally involving all staff. Try using the Balanced Scorecard to manage this as a ‘Business as Usual’ process that you build into individual and team goals
Communicate openly and frequently with all staff about forthcoming and ongoing initiatives; encourage contribution and feedback and most importantly, openly address and validate concerns or questions
Reward contribution – whether in the form of new ideas or helping beneficially develop existing ideas
Don’t wait for research to be completed or a conclusion to be reached on the most approved solution…take action from day one and change course as is necessary to achieve the optimum solution
Adopt a robust recruitment, development and succession strategy which will ensure these values are evident throughout your organisation. Remember the damage that just one bad apple can do to a batch!
Put simply, think about change as setting off on a journey in your car. If you have a sophisticated satellite navigation system, you can set off straight away as soon as your general destination has been set. (To be honest when it comes to innovation, you don’t even need exact coordinates – whilst regular business goals need specificity, most times, real innovation comes from just having a general idea or direction and playing with successes and failures until you find a breakthrough). As well as having the benefit of historical data, your equipment will be receiving information from various sources about any potential blocks en-route throughout your journey (you don’t need to reboot and consider options) and your course may change automatically as you receive this information. You are still the driver and can change direction at any point in time should some new information arise…. but the important thing is…. your progress is informed, new information doesn’t stop or derail you…and you don’t lose time analysing and assessing what might or might not happen before you set off.
Annual Business MOT
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