Business as usual is no longer possible. Business as unusual is now the norm in every market globally. Why? Because change is accelerating daily and much of the changes are being fueled by communications. Communications is the foundation of every business and the right of every individual. But now communications is fluid, transparent and exploding at the click of a mouse on-line and off.
Numerous studies have shown that many businesses fail at to make necessary changes that are critical to success. For example, 50 – 75% of all implementations of integrative technologies or methodologies, e.g., CRM, Business Process Improvement, Social Technology, etc., fail to achieve the financial results which justified their investment.
The ability to react quickly to change is critical to business survival. Yet, the inability to implement change hinder the organization’s ability to keep pace with its competitors. The implications of these issues go beyond the obvious short-term direct results of wasting resources and not achieving stated goals.
The social technology landscape is evolving at an ever-increasing rate, with security, compliance, and the expanding utility of mobile devices all being in the forefront in 2010. In addition to exploding technology advances, organizations continue to try and reorganize and focus on improved business processes aimed at greater efficiencies and effectiveness in a marketplace of increased expectations from consumers and investors.
All of these issues share a common theme as involving changes in process, technology and people. Constrain to successful change is usually not with the technology, methodology, etc. Rather, the direct cause for “failure” is the lack of knowledge required for the human and organizational response to change. People don’t resist change they resist being changed.
What Knowledge is Required to Lead Change Successfully?
Traditional thinking has approached change management as a structured approach. Structured approaches to leading change in a world of unstructured communications is doomed to fail.
Historically the change management strategy adopted by many businesses is focused almost entirely on development of new documentation of procedures and training of personnel on the new changes. The irony of historical approaches to change has been top down while the driving forces of change are bottom up. Again, people don’t resist change they resist being changed.
The knowledge of what needs to change and how to make the change is no longer contained by the few rather it rest with the many.
The critical elements for enabling change to work successfully include:
- Management Willingness – Management’s visibility and consistent commitment to changes that the people recognize as needed is critical. Many change efforts have failed when management has not been aware that their role is central to convincing the organization they will allow the changes to happen and they themselves are willing to change. Instead management’s reaction to all things social is to control, constrain and police it.
- Change Agents– Change Agents, the people who are passionate about change and have the influence to insure that changes are acted on not just talked about . Who are these people? You’d be surprised to find out that they are everywhere in and outside the organization. There is a pent up demand for change in society and people want things to change from business as usual to unusual. The change agents are self organized “nodes” inside and outside the traditional organizational structure.
- Culture – For organizations with strong cultures, any change that runs counter to that culture will have additional barriers to success. Unless the culture can change it will be a barrier to any change required or requested by and for the people.
The critical lesson, however, is that change management is not an “add-on” or separate activity from the rest of operational activities. Change is the new imperative for all operational activity, organizational visions and innovation initiatives. Period!