Why Change Management Needs To Move Up The Agenda In Every Organisation

culture strategy May 09, 2020
In a fast changing world, soon everyone will need to adopt change management skills and concepts if they want their organisations (and careers) to thrive.

Right now you may be trying to come up with the solutions your organisation needs to not only survive this crisis, but thrive through it.

This is what change management exists to do; to drive epic transformation that actually works - and it gets results way beyond a specific project.

Beyond that, the skills and concepts of change management enable transformation of the culture into one that embraces chaos as an opportunity for growth.

Here are 3 core practices and principles of change management that need to move up the agenda in all organisations:

 

The old approach: Make snap decisions at board-only level

The change management approach: Engage a diverse group for the best results

With so much uncertainty, it's easy to make snap decisions about your business without really considering the people who work for you.

You might say, “We don’t have time to engage, consult and discuss with different people”. And while it’s true that you can go faster by making your own decision, you won't necessarily go very far - you need to make the time to consult with at least a few key trusted people. 

Research has found a direct link between inclusive decision-making and better business performance. Put three diverse people together and 87 per cent of the time they will make a decision better than any individual.

Promoting co-creation is a core pillar of change management. Engaging a diverse group of people will give better solutions to the problems both you and your customers face - and that’s ultimately what we want. 

If your engagement consists of pulling together the board for a conversation, you've missed the point. Instead, increase diversity to include different levels, backgrounds, education, ethnicities, genders and sexualities to allow for different perspectives and better solutions.

 

The old approach: Spin, presenting “perfect” solutions, and massaging the figures

The change management approach: “We’re not here to be right, we’re here to get it right”

At its most fundamental, change management works when you’re totally transparent. During the crisis, this has been done well; we’ve been informed about the scale of the issue and been given regular updates with the best data available at the time. 

In the past, leaders may have waited until they had the right data, wanting to share perfection rather than being open about the uncertainty.

Transparency is powerful because uncertainty and vulnerability brings people with you.

For me, transparency isn't about sharing everything, but about sharing with no filter (aka, no more spin). This is a two-way thing; In order for it to work, the people you work with also need a safe space to share with you about the problems they foresee.

Elevating change management to the top of your organisation’s agenda enables transparency to be part of the allowed culture, removing defensiveness at the senior level. You transform into an organisation with an ethos of, “We’re not here to be right, we’re here to get it right. We’re interested in hearing why we’re wrong so we can get it right.”

The allowed culture of the boardroom at the moment is to carefully curate the message about difficult topics. But now more than ever we have to treat people like adults; share the problems you’re all trying to solve, plus the potential solutions and progress towards them so others can respond with better ideas. 

Leaders don't have to be personally right, but they do have to be committed to getting to the right solution. There is a huge vulnerability in this, but allowing someone at the grassroots to tell someone at the top why their idea won’t work means you’ve made a safe space for that conversation. Congratulations: now you can focus on more productive things that will work.

 

The old approach: Expensive mistakes based on guesswork

The change management approach: Iteration and constant testing

What happens at the moment is a ‘cycle mentality’ where you announce a major organisational shift with lots of fanfare and persuasive messaging. Then when it doesn’t actually work, you revert back to where you were before, often within the space of a few years. 

That’s a huge waste of time and energy; one driven by starting with the assumption that a given solution is correct, and building everything up from there.

Change management works from the assumption that your solution will be wrong, and looking for ways to make it work. It says: Iterate, test and refine more.

For leaders, there’s a vulnerability to this approach. You have to be willing for your first attempt at solving something not to work, and to ask for feedback about why. Instead of putting a stake in the ground with a solution and feeling obligated to stick with it, adapting as you go makes for a greater chance of genuine success.

Change management encourages iteration and constant testing, rather than expensive mistakes based on well-informed guesswork.

 

In such a fast-moving climate, the more you can stick to these principles the more valuable you'll be. Don't flex to fit into the old world, or react based on how you’re expected to. Instead, be the leader in your organisation who adopts the change management approach.

I think this is so important that I’m creating something really special to help you pivot your existing skills to meet a demanding marketplace, based on the principles of change management. Keep your eyes on my page for more.

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