Continuity gives us roots: Change gives us branches, Letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. -- Pauline R. Kezer
Human beings are the most adaptable of creatures inhabiting our planet but given a chance, they too would not like to change their status quo
The only thing that has changed is the rate of change and needless to say, the human race has kept pace with this frenetic pace. The changes that have deluged the world in the last couple of years have far outstripped the changes witnessed in the last decade. These changes have evolved the human civilization and today we are reaping the benefits. Human beings, undoubtedly, are the most adaptable of creatures inhabiting our planet. However, given a chance, they too would not like to change the status quo. This is a paradox but true.
Changes have influenced our world and the way we live, both at the corporate level and in our personal lives. Change however has had its own journey. We have seen the benefits that have accrued from changes which have propelled the world to what we see today. Right from inventing the electric bulb, to stepping on the surface of the moon, changes witnessed in the last 100 years have had far reaching implications. It is not possible to visualize a life in the modern world without electricity, mobile phone, television, motor car, world wide web et al. Yet in some parts of our current civilized world, these are still unheard of.
Majority of the human race would like to peacefully continue with their existence, as they are unprepared for any change to their life styles or surroundings. People normally resist change as it takes them out of their comfort zone and repose them into the unknown. When change is for the better, we are happy to embrace the same and when we perceive it to be negative in some form, we find the change all the more harder to accept and imbibe. It is also true that some people change far more easily than others, while some find change traumatic. Change can be for the better or for the worse depending on where an individual or a corporate is placed.
Organizations in the 21st century have been forced to change or perish, as competition, analysts, stock markets and quarterly results ensure that only the fittest will survive. Change is not normally forced upon an organization from the inside, but mostly from the outside. International borders have narrowed down as a result of which, the world has become a smaller place to live in. This has resulted in products and services becoming obsolete rather quickly. Government legislation, often guided by global bodies and memberships has changed the very outlook of the industry. Inventions or discoveries take a shorter time to hit far flung markets than a decade ago, the time lag being almost nonexistent. Accountability and shareholder activism has ensured that organizations create new values continuously in order to garner market share.
The global recession that hit the world in 2007 end, did witness huge disruptions that people were not prepared for. Realities changed overnight and consequently, organizations were forced to pull up their socks in order to survive and some survived better than others. Today, organizations realize that they do need to tighten at the drop of a hat. The year gone by did see the eclipse of monoliths like Lehman Brothers, General Motors and a slew of others, on whom no one could even imagine that the sun would set. This is the reality facing all organizations in today’s fast changing world.
Since change is inevitable, what do we need to do to ensure that change is smooth and painless? Here are top ten ‘must-dos’ to make the process of change successful:
1. Understand the legacy of change existing in the organization. If the organization has experimented with a number of changes and none has seen the day of light, then the effort to get the current change off the ground successfully will be a gigantic task. People look back at their past experiences to understand what the future holds for them.
2. Evaluate organization’s readiness to change. There would always be some people who are more ready than others to change. It would be worthwhile to use such people to champion the change intended. This evaluation also tells how much effort needs to be done with employees in order to get them aligned and move along with the change.
3. Realize that the compelling reason to change could be different for different sections of people. For instance; the need to close a plant because the Return on Capital Employed is very low could be a compelling reason for the top management to implement change, but not necessarily for the Plant Manager, Shift engineers and workmen.
4. Build a compelling reason to change for each of the stakeholders. Do not attempt a change process unless you have arrived at the burning platform for each of the sections of people who would need to change. The compelling reason must be powerful to galvanize people into action.
5. Ensure a vision is in place. Having a compelling reason is not enough as people also need to have a vision to head to. In case people are not clear as to where they are headed, they would be reluctant to change, as probably they would be better off where they are without a vision.
6. Build the change. Ensure you have the hearts and minds of all those who need to undergo the change. While undergoing the change process one must ensure not only the intellectual buy-in of the people who need to change but also the emotional buy-in of the people.
7. Ensure that communication is aligned to the change. Everyone from the top should speak the same language; otherwise the change remains a non starter. Here it would help if the managers, who are responsible for driving the change, have an elevator speech ready to ensure that a common message is being conveyed. Although this is often ignored; however, the importance of this can never be over emphasized. People down the line observe very minutely and want to know if the messages being conveyed to them from the top management are identical or whether there is a difference between them. If they do sense that there is a lack of alignment at the top, they would be reluctant to accept the change.
8. Periodic reviews and reinforcement. This is critical in order to make sure that the change process does not lose steam. Top management’ active support must be visible, and not seen as sagging at any given point in time.
9. Map all the participants in the change process. This is critical in order that we do not have any nasty surprises at the end of the day. This also helps to plan as to who should influence whom in order that there are no roadblocks to the change. One can never be sure as to who would be interested in derailing the change process. Network mapping is an effective tool that helps you preempt any nasty surprises.
10. Review. Once the change has been successfully rolled out; review the same in order to draw out lessons for future changes.
It is the people component, and not technology and finance, that is the most critical element of a change, and which makes or breaks the change effort. Hence, those organizations that are more tuned in to employees and follow a robust change process around the people element are the ones who emerge successfully in the change process. It is therefore imperative for organizations to build their capacity to change in order to be prepared for the next change. For barely have you got through one change that you need to be ready for the next one. In an employee’s corporate life cycle he/she can expect to go through at least three major changes if not more. And looking at the rate of change, one would not be surprised if the number of changes multiplies for the next generation!! Hence, be ready for the change, change along with the change and be ready for the next change. Listed above is one of the strategies to effectively make change happen. Ultimately it is the people who make change happen and it is they who can derail the change process.
Rarely has change been forced upon people overnight. The environment around us keeps changing all the time, it is for us to take cognizance of the same in order to be prepared. Else those unwilling will be overwhelmed by the changing scenario.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” - Author Unknown, commonly misattributed to Charles Darwin.
Facts about change that would be worthwhile to bear in mind
1) Change is inevitable and constant.
2) For successful change to take place effectively people must be ready embrace change.
3) It is not enough to have an intellectual buy-in to the change that is being envisaged, the emotional buy-in is far more critical for change to succeed.
4) People need to be clear as to what is it in it for them in order to change.
5) For change to succeed people, need to be clear as to where they are headed or the vision that is being shown to them.
6) People need to be trained to embrace and adopt the new set of behaviors necessary for the change to succeed; else they will resort to their old ways of working and would make the change effort meaningless.
7) Throughout the change process, consistent communication is essential for change to be followed through.