In today's digital business world the only sustainable element is constant change.
Organisations must build internal capability to design and implement frequent changes develop workforce resilience in order to survive and grow. We can see how companies who dominated markets just a few years ago do not exist today (Nokia, blockbuster, blackberry etc.) as their senior leadership and culture prevented them from changing and evolving.
Other organisations are struggling today to implement changes and lead transformation programmes as they use dated approaches and invest too much time and effort planning and initiating change projects that by the time they are looking to execute the plans they have already missed the target commercial value relevance of the change.
As the world continues to evolve at breakneck speed, organizations now understand that they must either change fast, or die.
When leadership decide to initiate changes impacting structure, business processes, job roles, technology etc. the responsible owner of these should ensure that they are designed to be implemented quickly, effectively and linked directly to commercial performance and value with business outcomes that can be tracked and measured frequently.
The problem today is that when organisations implement changes, they focus mainly on how the people coping with the changes, rather than focusing on embedding the change and achieve the actual value of the change itself.
The focus of change management today should not be about empathizing with how people cope with these changes, but rather to explore and implement innovation in constant, more agile implementations in order to achieve the growth needed to truly succeed.
In this article, I will share my six principles for modern change management that I recommend you to consider using in your next change initiative , and demonstrated how you y can drive better value and be more successful leading and implementing changes
1. Communicate to engage not to inform
Change managers have a tendency to over communicate during organizational change projects as a way to cover gaps in the project time lines or to inform on progress , it is a common practice to keep a frequent communication activity to assure the sponsors that the team engage the different stakeholders.
Communication is effective as a way to raise awareness and communicate vision and ideas and it should be used in a timely manner in the appropriate channels and linked to actual activities expected by the recipients.
Effective communication is best delivered as two-way engagement and preferably by immediate leadership (line management) or personalised channels. It should be short, informative and lead to a specific activity by the recipient, otherwise its just creating a disruptive noise and make it difficult to assess its effectiveness.
The key roles of communication during change initiatives are :
Create awareness, and establish good engagement with multiple stakeholders hence it should be done with intention to create a dialogue over the most appropriate channel or multiple channels while engagement should be measured by level of response and not by reach.
Identify potential risks, barriers for adoption of change and to receive feedback. Rather than looking at internal indicators which are part of the project management element, change management project health should be measured by the level of value delivered as perceived to be delivered from the point of view of the impacted population.
While projects might not perform well according to the plan, no project sponsor will stop an initiative that delivers high positive value.
2. Build capability by focusing on behaviors not knowledge
Today, there is far too much focus on communication, training and other types of engagement designed to ensure that employees will be able to cope with the new changes taking place. The thought is that we can look at how we handle personal changes or deal with trauma in our life, and apply those philosophies to the workplace as well is a faulty approach.
Inevitably, some people will accept and adopt new organisational changes, while and others won’t (and probably will not stay in the organisation or their role for long) for many reasons. To be able to implement immediate changes leadership focus should be on changing the behaviors and habits of those people that will remain, by encouraging them to adopt new behaviours and improve their understanding of the value derived from the upcoming changes that are coming.
This type of ‘action-based approach’ will succeed when we focus on the human/emotional side of implementing change. The idea is that people will eventually adapt new behaviors that gradually become a habit, replacing old habits. From neuroscience and psychology, we know that learning can only lead to greater awareness or understanding, but not to actions. To achieve real change, the focus should be on motivating and guiding people to act in a specific way and repeat it until it becomes “the way we do things”. Achieving this type of sustained behavior shift requires forming tangible habits, along with new collaboration tools to enable the journey .
3. Implement Bite-Sized Changes, With Big Results
Successful change projects are the ones that can adapt and respond rapidly to environmental deviations. Projects need to be designed to handle risks and changes in requirements quickly, with activities executed in short and fixed durations to allow for continual improvement throughout the process.
Let’s assume for example that an organization wants to implement a new system that will help them work in a leaner way. Traditionally, the team lead will come and say ‘let’s build a roadmap that’s slow and incremental, and doesn’t adversely affect people too much’. Large-scale organizations may even decide to implement this strategy one geographical market or subsidiary at a time. But what really happens in today’s world? Culture change has to be now.
Businesses and environments change dynamically, and stakeholders change with even more frequency. This means that a slow, drawn-out approach won’t work. The traditional approach of planning too far ahead must be replaced with a new agile, bite-sized approach – with shorter implementation times and fast-paced, measurable iterations.
This type of agile approach is often met with skepticism, and thought of as lacking structure. In actuality however, agile-based implementations do in fact have structure, only with shorter iterations. You’ll still have stakeholders, but they’ll be invested with greater frequency and more accountability, and able to change and adapt as needed.
4. Avoid the Dreaded ‘Change Fatigue’
Organisational leaders today often see change fatigue among employees as simply being more resistance to change, and often respond by continuing with the same management behaviors they’ve decided on from the beginning. What follows is what happens in most organizations when change doesn’t go as planned: people start to blame each other, things get off track, and change fatigue starts to set in. Even those that aren’t resisting start to feel lost and incapable of achievement.
What’s needed to avoid these obstacles is change leadership, not change management. Focus on understanding why and how the tasks in your roadmap need to be done, and how they relate to what your employees do each day.
Give employees the tools that they need in order to engage better; to be truly motivated, a person needs to be engaged with the most appropriate channels and messages based on their preference, culture and mindset. Messaging has to be adapted to their personal needs and to their personal view of the world.
This personalized, ‘audience-centric’ approach can be utilised in many ways. For example, instead of implementing resource-intensive classroom training, you can implement on-demand training walkthroughs such as WalkMe – which provide the ability to learn by experimentation, and can be made available for anyone to go through at any time.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Bots can also be set up to provide bite-size training and knowledge, with the ability to generate meaningful, data-driven reports. AI programs offer an innovative way to not only train staff at a comfortable pace, but also offer faster development by introducing incentives and rewards based on an employee’s profile.
5. ‘Breaking Silos’ is a Myth
Silos will always exist. To think that a certain approach will help break them is misguided. Implementing a business process requires cross-team collaboration, not just focusing on HR. Instead, take a multi-disciplined team from different departments, all of whom are stakeholders, and make sure they implement building solutions from across different silos.
Now is the time to focus on real business challenges as well, and to make sure that people are held accountable. Implement a dashboard with data and insights that everyone can track and see, enabling real peer-to-peer learning to happen. For example, a sales team could track the turnaround time for creating a lead to actually converting one; or identify, stimulate and measure the types of customer visits that end up generating sales.
These types of KPIs should be tangible and behavior-focused rather than commercial-focused, and directly linked to business outcomes. They should be measured frequently - perhaps daily, or even hourly if needed.
6. The Data is Here, The Time is Now
With the exponential growth of digital technology now available at our fingertips, the time is right to make the above principles a reality. While many organizations struggle to incorporate data-driven insights into real organizational change, the ones that can harness these capabilities effectively will be able to create significant value and better compete in a data-driven world.
If organisations can quickly and effectively aggregate data from multiple sources, they’ll be able to produce insights that enable better decisions, identification of risks and sustainable process building. Feedback can be provided and received in real time for nearly any type of activity, using dashboards, projections and other tools. Companies can implement an omni-channel approach at the organizational level, in short bursts that fully utilize team capabilities; at the team level with a specific curriculum of targets and activities linked to behaviors and habits; and at the individual level with daily dashboards and other behavior-focused, measurable tools.
Ultimately, technology alone won’t solve change management needs. Organizations will need to execute through leadership clarity and responsibility, cross-department collaboration, project activities executed in short and fixed durations, and most of all – a managerial commitment to all stakeholders that they will receive the personal attention they need to help create real digital transformation and success.
Adi Ben-Nesher is a leader in the field of digital transformation and organizational change. With over 20 years of experience designing, developing, and leading organizational transformation initiatives, he helps organizations and senior leadership develop digital capabilities as part of their digital transformational journey. Adi can be contacted on LinkedIn, or reached by email at email@example.com.