Building an Organization that Can Change Again and Again
You don’t need a lot of research to show you that change in organizations is an ever increasing phenomena. New technologies, new products, new competitors, new regulations, new people with new values and experiences. Every day, organizations try to stay one step ahead of their competitors by changing to meet the needs of their customers either cheaper or faster or both.
Not too long ago, many started recognizing that change within organizations needed to be proactively managed. Those that were forward- thinking started working explicitly to help the people in their organizations get ready, willing, and able to work in new ways that were required for future success.
Those that hoped people would just “get with the program” or “do what I said because I said so” have lived (and died) with the results of low productivity, engagement, and performance relative to their more enlightened competitors.
For the organizations that have worked hard to manage the people aspects of change explicitly, the rewards have been forthcoming. But change is speeding up. As soon as one change is “complete”, it seems another is starting up. Just paying attention to managing the people aspects of organizational change will not be good enough as time goes by. The organizations that thrive in the long
term need to develop an organizational change competency. Change needs to become part of an organizations culture and DNA.
Given the pace of business change today and in the future, building a change management competency is going to be a clear competitive advantage for organizations of the future. Organizations that are really good at helping their people move from thinking and acting in existing ways to thinking and acting in new ways that are required for the organization’s success are the ones that are going to beat their competition every time.
For lots of years, organizations have viewed change as an event. Implementing an ERP system. Reengineering processes. Redesigning an organization. Spinning off a division or merging with another entity. Some have grinned and bared it just waiting for the pain to stop. Others have learned to muscle through with less pain, but memories that are less than fond. And still others have gotten pretty good at managing these kinds of change events.
Organizations range from having no change management focus or skill at all, to complete integration and competence in managing the people side of change.
What does it take to build an internal change management competency? Some organizations are building change management functions or centers of expertise (such as Motorola). Having a team of people who are dedicated to focusing only on the human elements of change ensures that it is not forgotten.
Other organizations are developing and adopting common tools and techniques that can be used across an organization to manage change. For example, Johnson & Johnson has their “Change Integration Process” and General Electric has their “Change Acceleration Process”. The use of a common language and approach to manage the people aspects of change speeds up the process of managing change and instills a mindset that helping people navigate through change is important.
If you don’t want to create your own model for managing the people aspects of change, then adopt one that’s out there already that fits your organization’s level of sophistication and experience. Start letting people in the organization know why managing change is important. The act alone of teaching staff about a change management process and tools sends a powerful signal to employees that
the people part of change is important. And build the skills, tools, and common language to help people start doing the work.
Change management is the next frontier of business improvement for organizations of all sizes. Just as Six Sigma and Lean started with big companies and “trickled down” to smaller organizations and became a real competitive advantage for some, effectively managing ongoing change is starting to trickle down. If you can be ahead of the next guy by building an organization that is capable of managing people during change, you won’t be sorry.