Change management structures that promote organisational change in an environment where continuous change is required to remain productive and competitive are becoming more a necessity. Increasingly I find the organisations I work with no longer require change management expertise for a single change initiative, but rather for a continuously changing market and culturally diverse workforce.
When considering the pace of organisational change required in today’s business environments, people naturally think of the impact of ever-changing IT. However, with companies and their customer base becoming more global, the pace of cultural change is every bit as challenging as the pace of IT. Change management teams are finding they need to adapt to methodologies which allow continuous change to exist in harmony with people’s natural desire for stability.
One such company that has evolved its internal change management structure, and aligned it with the need for continuous organisational change, is Cisco.
Here I look at how Cisco manages to keep its ship on course while redesigning its rudder.
An organisational change management team for effective continuous change
Cisco, with 75,000 employees worldwide, has a workforce that is not only diverse but dispersed. It sells its products and services across different continents and to different customers. It has found the pace of change in its markets to be even faster than the pace of change in IT, with cultural change at the top of the list.
In order to manage the organisational change needs of the company, it has instigated a hub and spoke structure, with its organisational change management team at the centre. This team has up to 27 members at any one time, though only two of these are permanent. The remaining members of the team are hand-picked from where current change will most affect and with regards to the expertise most needed.
This helps provide an overarching level of stability, while remaining agile and in constant flux: mimicking the continuous change needed for Cisco to remain at the top of its game.
A simple approach for complex change management issues
Businesses now operate in cultural and market environments of overwhelming complexity. Cisco’s hub and spoke system of organisational change management allows the company to empower stakeholders of change with consistency of approach. Its methodologies for change management are simple:
- It seeks to create consensus across large numbers of people
- It designs change programs with the stakeholders of change
- It develops and encourages integration between organisational change management and project management teams
- It maintains speed through an agile approach
Further, its hub and spoke structure enables company-wide communication, the exchange of ideas and best working practices, and has become an enabler of change rather than a dictator of change.
While the company has a long-term strategic goal, Cisco has created a framework within which it is able to balance its short term objectives with longer term complicity and complexity.
Rolling out organisational change
Of course, creating a structure for continuous change is only the first step in producing a workable and strategic change management pathway. Cisco has also given it change management team a set of standards to work to.
At the hub of its change management efforts, the organisational change management team is seen as a centre of excellence, with the edict of aligning change management practices across the organisation, educating change leaders, and engendering those standards to all individuals and teams. Cisco calls this its ‘next generation leadership model’.
It has had to learn to deal with internal ‘fuzziness’, and communicate a new culture in which people understand that there will always be procedural and process ambiguity: nothing is ever fully settled in an environment where change is continuous.
The agility of the change management structure allows agility, with decision made at breath-taking speed, while maintaining an order and constancy of approach. It has developed smaller communities of best practice, with feedback given up the line and into the hub.
Selecting your fluid change management team
At the centre of its success is Cisco’s fluidity of change leaders. For every situational need it is able to draw on singular expertise. Every time it does so, it not only empowers new leaders but integrates them into a portfolio management process.
By selecting individual expertise for individual situations, no longer are projects isolate. Rather program life cycles and program size converge as separate communities work together and realise cross functional commonalities.
Moving to a common platform to manage change will help your organisation to achieve the benefits experienced by Cisco:
- increased competiveness
- change management process accepted across the whole organisation
- change managers speaking in a common language
- ability to influence strategies to get change adopted
All organisations need to change to remain ahead of their competition. The new requirement for continuous change is a difficult concept requiring a new cultural approach.
When executed simply, continuous change is often executed best.