Why Change Now?
In the digital age, change is a journey, not a destination. How can you optimise your business to change with the times?
Digital transformation is one of the biggest business challenges of our age. The need to evolve and innovate is fierce. Nobody wants their organisation to be the next Blockbuster, Kodak or Nokia. But with anything up to 70 percent of change management efforts doomed to fail, the stakes are high.
How do some businesses stay ahead of the curve while others lag behind?
People are people
I’ll let you into a secret. It’s not all about having the latest shiny technology or a sophisticated strategy. Human behaviour is the single most important element. Change initiatives stand or fall based on whether hearts and minds are engaged, whether they’re working with the change or against it.
So, we know from experience that people are a primary factor enabling or hindering successful change. And we know that digital transformation requires the pace and rhythm of change to up-tempo. What’s the best way then to create a dynamic culture where people are energised by opportunities, not obsessed with problems?
Understanding human nature, and barriers to change, is a good place to start.
A sense of urgency
The digital age has short-circuited traditional patterns of product and service development for many industries. Innovation and change can no longer operate as ring-fenced projects that are meticulously planned and managed. There is no time for deliberation or procrastination. If you wait and see what your competitors are going to do you risk being left behind. Or worse, finding that a new start up has pulled the rug from under you all with a disruptive new approach. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?
Nobody wants their organisation to be the next Blockbuster, Kodak or Nokia
Acknowledging the fear factor is essential. Because if you want to foster innovation, you need to motivate and empower people to explore new ideas and make decisions. This requires trust. People need the confidence to take a certain amount of risk, safe in the knowledge that if things don’t go to plan nobody’s neck will be on the line.
It’s natural to put off challenging tasks and stick with what we know. But evidence shows that the earlier an organisation makes a given change, the greater the likelihood of success. So, it’s important to instil a sense of urgency, starting with business leaders and decision makers then extending right across the business.
All of this marks a fundamental shift from change management to change leadership. It requires a level of decentralisation, putting more power in the hands of staff.
But we don’t need to rip up the rulebook just yet.
Fluidity and immediacy are the hallmarks of a dynamic, change-ready culture. However, a framework is needed to avoid chaos and ensure progress is made.
Assessing four core capabilities provides a firm foundation:
- Change awareness – do you have people horizon-scanning to identify emerging opportunities? Are you proactively researching wider market changes?
- Change agility – are you able to clearly convey the need for change? Can your managers engage their teams to galvanise change?
- Change reaction – do you have the ability to predict potential problems? How will you handle any negative reactions from employees
- Change mechanisms – are there systems and processes in place to integrate change, reinforce desired behaviours and ensure accountability? Can change be achieved without disruption of daily operations?
If you’ve yet to start your digital transformation journey, or you fear it has stalled, consider whether key stakeholders truly understand the need and urgency for change. Find ways to engage them and work together to address the four change-readiness capabilities.
True agility requires that you energise your people. And in an always-on world, the time to change is always-now.
Mark has over 25 years’ experience of fast paced transformational change, often in highly complex and political situations. He co-founded Applied Change 10 years ago with a clear purpose to push the thinking on human behaviour and human centred change. Most recently he’s been working closely with University of the West of England (UWE) Psychological Sciences Research Group to develop simple, practical models and tools that re-orientate our approach to business change, starting from the human perspective.