Economic turmoil. Credit freeze. Housing crisis. It seems every financial woe has hit business at once, leaving us in a frenzy, and not knowing what to expect next. How do we deal with all this change?
Change Is a Given:Now What? A BUSINESS ISSUE QUICK READSum of All Fears Our study of 400 successful change leaders in seven countries found changeEconomic turmoil. Credit freeze. today to be far-reaching, overlapping,Housing crisis. It seems every financial and open-ended. Real change, these Real change takeswoe has hit business at once, leaving us leaders said, takes more than a process more than ain a frenzy, and not knowing what to or series of projects. It takes aexpect next. change-capable culture, from C-suite to process or seriesOne thing is guaranteed: our businesses shop floor, to overcome these of projects. It challenges:will change. Restructuring, downsizing, takes a change-new go-to-market strategies – these are • Failure to tell. Focused on the big capable culture.just some of the possible responses to picture, executives may fail to tellthe turbulent environment. employees what they need to know. Said one respondent, “Messages at theOver half of the leaders in an vision level have no impact onAchieveGlobal study agreed that day-to-day activity.”“change capability is a company’sgreatest competitive advantage.” • Failure to listen. While workers are well-qualified to offer improvements,Y as we weather a global economic et, said a U.K. leader, “seniordownturn, we should remember that, management don’t listen to frontlinehistorically, up to 85 of 100 change staff. They listen to consultants whoefforts falter or fail. Next sobering know little or nothing of ourquestion: Why would that rate improve operations” – and who may fail tobecause times are bad? leverage this in-house resource.Here’s a brighter note. Our study found • Hell hath no fury. A mid-managerlittle support for inborn human scorned rarely buys into a change. Ifresistance to change. “People aren’t they feel ignored, “middle managersstupid,” said a respondent. “They see think they can wait out the CEO andhow fast the world is moving. They feel not change,” said one respondent. Atit in their own lives.” the very least, this behavior deflatesSo what are the challenges of executing employee morale and effort.a coherent response to tectonic shifts in • Blizzard of irrelevance. Every livingthe macro-economy? change breathes timely data. Still, Developing the st TM century workforce
number-crunching alone won’t give • Address the mundane reality of change. To promote people what they need to move forward. More to do, less time to do it, and More to the point, it distracts leaders peripheral tasks can weigh down change capability, from the critical human aspects of progress. A manager described his executives must change. response: “With a budget reduction we had to be more efficient with resources. promote theWisdom of the 400 This was only possible by reducing reasons for change.The seasoned leaders in our study, from a everyone’s workload.”cross-section of industries, offered this • Demonstrate commitment. Peoplesummary advice: watch executives to decide how serious• Rethink the rules. Every big change the organization is about change. requires leaders to re-align systems with Initiatives tend to succeed, in the words goals. “We consolidated processes across of a respondent, when “executives departments,” said one manager. Said express, model, and reinforce the need another, “We added reps, which for change.” improved customer satisfaction and retention.” Practice, Practice, Practice Reviewing our data, we began to see the• Beware of change fatigue. One change engine of change not in a process, but in the after another can leave employees sum of behaviors – in precisely 10 leadership disengaged – even hostile. To reduce this practices that build change capability: problem, executives continue to clarify new expectations. One leader, for 1. Expand awareness of business realities. example, “went to a matrix organization. “Y need to let employees in on what ou Key directors now report directly to you’re worried or excited about,” said a corporate.” respondent, exactly on point. “That’s the basis for everything else that happens.”• Keep the numbers simple. People need to know how they’re doing – in terms 2.Spotlight strengths and successes. Instead they understand. “We’re making of focusing on the few who resist, seasoned processes understandable,” said a leaders showcase the people who support a manager. Another respondent said her change. “If you let it,” said one, “success will global company selected simple metrics speak for itself.” “from different cultures, to bring us together.” 3.Embrace experimentation. Anyone can learn a complex new activity – if he or she• Communicate often. With their evolving can learn from mistakes. Leaders build questions, employees need a stream of confidence as they help employees draw information about any major change. lessons from small-scale tests. Many, many respondents advised “communication at all levels,” “constant 4. Encourage meaningful involvement. communication with employees,” Y measure overall change capability in ou “consistent communication of the goal,” the quality of individual contributions. and so on. Leaders must decide who to involve, when, and how to leverage their unique talents• Encourage people to speak up. A chance and aspirations. to talk about change not only surfaces concerns, it “brings greater creative force 5.Provide information others need. and energy,” said one leader. In contrast, Information, and explanation, mitigate the “employees whose ideas were shot down shock of change. “The VP related the by previous management only wanted to change to everything,” said a manager. “We stay with the tried and true.” needed to know it was the right direction.”
6. Encourage candid feedback. In direct need to live the change, so employees About AchieveGlobaldialogue, leaders find out what employees realize how important it is for the change In the 21st century, the level ofthink and feel. But sincerity is vital: “People to pay off.” human skills will determine organi- zation success. AchieveGlobalcan tell if you’re really interested or just want Taken together, our findings confirm a provides exceptional develop-their buy-in.” major shift in how organizations today are ment in interpersonal business7. Make progress clear to all. Effective managing change: skills, giving companies the workforce they need for busi-change leaders develop the simple metrics • No longer do leaders expect long periods ness results. Located in over 40needed for course correction, and provide countries, we offer multi-lan- of stability; constant change is the newopportunities for people to say what’s guage, learning-based solu- landscape.working and what’s not. tions—globally, regionally, • No longer is change linear or confined; and locally.8.Coordinate resources. As needs evolve leaders now wrestle with overlappingduring a change, re-negotiating and changes, stoking energy despite We understand the competitionredirecting scarce resources is critical to competing demands. you face. Your success dependsprogress and morale. People know when a on people who have the skills to • No longer can leaders follow a standardleader fails to support them. handle the challenges beyond process for every change; they must tailor the reach of technology. We’re9. Revisit systems, practices, and policies. each initiative to prevailing conditions. experts in developing thesePeople seek security by reverting to • No longer can leaders earn widespread skills, and it’s these skills thatestablished processes – a serious issue if the buy-in with the bare-bones business case; turn your strategies into busi-past undercuts the future. Change leaders now they must create a deep sense of ness success in the 21st century.adjust or remove any process that slows ownership in change.progress. These are things technology • No longer can organizations rely solely on can’t do. Think. Learn. Solve10. Respond to resistance. Over time, existing strengths; now they cultivate problems. Listen. Motivate.showcasing success helps to reduce change capability in every employee. Explain. People with these skillsresistance. Still, change leaders attend to While our study outlines a practice-based have a bright future in the 21st century. AchieveGlobal preparesearly signs and address resistance with rather than a phased-based approach to you for that world.firmness and compassion. change, its findings in fact support any established process. The study highlightsLandscape of Change key leadership practices that encourageExecutives, of course, establish the direction individual involvement and multiply theand climate for change – both with a impact of any phase approach.decisive impact on outcomes. To frame thechange and promote organizational changecapability, our study found executives mustcommunicate the reasons for change, as wellas the risks and likely rewards.Like managers, executives need to followthe 10 practices to promote changecapability and coach their direct reportsthrough more or less constant change. Saidan HR leader, “Executives have to do morethan make plans and track progress. They