Change is indeed the way of life and being able to transcend disruptions must become a way of life for organisations too
Organizations like organisms evolve continuously; the success of an organization depends on this evolution and the effectiveness with which it can manage the change that comes with it. Change may be looming on the horizon due to business transitions impacted by strategic mergers, joint ventures, divestitures, expansions, new business solutions, infusion of technology, market changes, financial downturns, compelling competitive scenarios, new opportunities or even a new dimension of growth. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change” observed Charles Robert Darwin way back in 1859 in his seminal book “Origin of the Species”.
Our body, composed of trillions of cells, is a classic metaphor of change constantly engaged in a dynamic never ceasing process where cells die, repair, renew, and rebuild. Change is indeed the way of life and being able to transcend disruptions must become a way of life for organizations too. “It is not success that makes good genes. It is good genes that make success” remarked Richard Dawkins. Humans, unlike other organisms, are blessed with the ability to reason, and in turn can endeavor to predict or envision possibilities and prepare for it. When we can anticipate what may happen tomorrow, we enable the ability to commit ourselves to action today. Organizations normally endeavor to react and respond when compelled with a crisis at hand. A real and ongoing transformational ability, on the other hand, may serve as a powerful and differentiating core competence.
Applying the Occam’s razor, when a business is at cross roads, the imperative is implicit; change the environment or the business itself must attempt to change. Metamorphosis is imminent when disruptions happen. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet contemplated, “Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?” How a business responds by accelerating change, minimizing possible resistance, and achieving organization’s desired outcomes will define its success and determine its future.
On the road to transformation, Kurt Lewin encapsulated the three critical steps required as unfreezing (where you unwind the current state), changing (where you enable and implement) and refreezing (where the new model of business is institutionalized). The levers of enabling sustainable and effective change include appreciating the very need for change, creating a shared vision, continuous and effective communication, addressing the critical culture gaps, carrying stakeholders along, building coalitions, forming a supporting infrastructure, sustaining the urgency for change and facilitating quick wins. The prerequisite, no doubt, is the need for a committed leadership that ensures organizational congruence and execution focus to the task on hand.
Change that endures at a fundamental level, even when desired to be affected across the entire organization, has to be invigorated at the individual level as it necessitates a behavioral transformation. As CK Prahlad observed, the power of n=1, where the real change is brought about through transforming one employee at a time, with the focus on the centrality of the individual. Transpersonal psychology highlights the fact that we, as individuals, are suffused with energy owing to our desire to grow and develop ourselves. When employees see a resonance between the compelling need to change and how it can impact their lives for the better, it creates a reservoir of energy that fuels the transformation sought. As custodian of the intellectual capital in the organization, the Human Resources function must take primacy and play the vital role of a transforming catalyst towards enabling sustainable change.