In today’s marketplace, change is probably the only constant. Successful change takes a lot of hard work and planning and the metaphor of navigating in stormy seas seems entirely appropriate. Many leaders actually do a bad job of planning for, explaining and implementing change. Studies conducted by leading consulting firms say that only 25% of gains produced by change management initiatives are successfully sustained on a long-term basis. Here are some important questions leaders should think about as they embark change initiatives:
Why is it important to be able to navigate change?
In many sectors of our economy, organizations must have the capacity to adapt quickly in order to thrive (or survive). Often the speed and complexity of change can severely test the capabilities of an organization. Successful organizational change requires employees to be emotionally and intellectually prepared.
What types of transitions in business are more difficult to navigate than others?
The pressure for change/transition can come from various categories: technology changes, knowledge explosion, product obsolescence, the changing nature of the workforce and quality of life. In my opinion, changes to an organization’s culture is the most challenging. Regardless of size, sector, industry or age, a company’s culture impacts the full range of its performance – from “hard” performance indicators such as profitability, market share and sales growth, to “softer” factors such as innovation and new product development, quality of products and services, and employee satisfaction.
How do you pace and plan for transition?
To begin, assess the preparedness of the organization to adopt the change, and assess the people and organizational risks associated with the change. I would also ask how the intended transition/change will be perceived and why. Will it be seen as a positive or negative change? Knowing this will help gauge the resistance you are likely to encounter which can affect the pace of the transition. Generally, the business case associated with the transition, (i.e. merger, enterprise technology installation, business process reengineering) will likely set out a timeline of milestones culminating in the eventual ROI.
What should you include in the plan?
5 things that should be in the plan: (1) identify the stakeholders, the costs and the benefits of the change, (2) engage leadership to communicate the compelling need for the change, (3) engage the workforce in the planning of the change, (4) introduce the tools, technology and training required, (5) measure the progress, demonstrate the value and communicate the successes.
Are there some steps that will take more time than others?
Yes. Overcoming resistance to the change comes to mind. Resistance can take several forms (cognitive, emotional, behavioral) but if properly understood, it can be used as a way to resolve diverging currents generated by the change.
How do you leave the old gracefully?
This is a really hard question to answer with a generalization. It depends on many factors. If the “new” makes life easier than the “old”, once the bugs are worked out the transition will seem quite natural. However, corporate culture transitions can be very different. One example comes from M&A: if two companies need to merge there is usually an inherent conflict regarding whose culture will dominate. If the two organizations can work on creating a “third thing” together, it makes the transition easier for people to accept.
What are some tips to make the transition smooth?
Make the effort to develop a communications strategy. Communicate, get feedback and communicate some more.