It could very well be the dawn of a new era of change.
For many years now, organizations looking to become more nimble and adjust to fluctuating market conditions have turned to Change Management initiatives. Unfortunately, the results have been less than encouraging.
In studies going back many years, the consensus is that only 25 per cent of Change Management initiatives achieve lasting results. That means three-quarters of all these efforts result in only short term, or no, positive change.
For those who have studied the struggles of Change Management, the advice is typically the same: ensure CEO-level buy-in; make sure management up and down the chain of command is singing off the same song sheet; communicate concrete, realistic project goals for change to all those affected.
And yet, rather than focus on the process of introducing change into an organization on a project-by-project basis, perhaps we need to focus instead on the culture of change itself.
In other words, maybe change shouldn’t be introduced into an organization as part of a single project or initiative. Perhaps an appetite for change should become a governing principle for everything an organization does.
Change is not a project; it’s an attitude.
Based on the track record of many Change Management initiatives, one could make a strong case for expunging the term Change Management and replacing it with “Continuous Change”.
Continuous Change reflects an organization’s understanding of, and dedication to, the idea that change is the rule, not the exception. That all business organizations must change, constantly, in order to succeed.
Fortunately, some of the techniques for achieving this will be familiar to many organizations because they are the same ones attached formerly to Change Management initiatives. The difference here is that the spadework is not being done to support any one project; instead, this is the work of building a new culture.
Start at the top: Of all the things that are wrong with Change Management strategies, the advice to start at the top to ensure senior executive support is not one of them. However, rather than getting support for one project, you need your C-suite to sing the praises of the whole philosophy of Continuous Change, so that all employees begin to see that they work for an organization, and in a business, where change will be the new constant.
Reframe the definition of a top talent: The ability to innovate and deal with ambiguity, need to become two of the principal competencies of people who work in a CC-oriented organization. Broken down into its constituent elements, this means stressing competencies like resilience, conflict management, advanced communication skills, adaptability and agility when recruiting top talent.
Change the mindset of existing talent: Although it might be possible over a longer period of time to hire enough new people with the right mindset, it makes good sense to devote some time and attention to changing the behavior of existing employees and helping them embrace the new culture by developing competencies like resilience, conflict management, etc.
Connect success at embracing continuous change to individual success: It is well known in the business world that a well-placed carrot can change behaviors, and improve outcomes. In surveys of employees undergoing Change Management initiatives, many complain that they are never given a clear picture of “what’s in it for them” when they are asked to change. In broad communication, and in more intimate one-on-one contact, it’s important to connect personal success with organizational success, so that everyone knows that adopting a new mindset can bring rewards.
With the emphasis on building a culture of continuous change, rather than just focusing on getting employees to accept change on a project-by-project basis, many organizations will find not only greater acceptance, but an appetite to create and innovate. Rather than passengers on the change train, they will be vying to determine where that train is going.