To Succeed in Sustainable Organisational Change, Think Like a Quitter!

To Succeed in Sustainable Organisational Change, Think Like a Quitter!

Change of any sort doesn’t come without some effort. Consider how a smoker faces the challenge of quitting. The smoker has to first make the goal of giving up a priority, and only then can the plan to quit be put into practice. There will be challenges, times when the effort seems too much. The initial enthusiasm to quit may disappear, and temptation to open a new pack can be strong. Old habits die hard.

Yet the smoker who really wants to quit, knows that to succeed needs more than simply a desire to quit. It takes time, effort, a lot of soul searching, and facing up to the ‘easy option’ of returning to the killer habit.

In many ways, the planning, effort, and reaffirmation needed throughout the journey of organisational change is no different to that of the smoker who wants to kick the habit.

In order to succeed in sustainable organisational change, you’ve got to think like a quitter!

Get your organisational change strategy in place before you start

Just like quitting smoking, organisational change must be a priority. It simply isn’t enough to want to change, you have to want to want to change. There has to be a driving desire, an absolute need to change.

This is what Steve Jobs did when he was recalled to a flagging Apple. He created the desire to change. He made people realise that without change, without the old innovative flair returning, Apple would simply be pulled down by gravity. He made change top of the agenda, placing it in a position of priority and making the need urgent.

To change, don’t be sacred to give something else up… in fact, do give up!

There will always be something on the to-do list that will obstruct change if you allow it to. The smoker might have a social event that means it will be ‘difficult’ to give up just yet. If you have decided that organisational change is a must, then other lesser priorities must be taken off the list.

With organisational change, it is imperative to create a sense of urgency. Change must become a priority for everyone. The need for change must be communicated effectively, with benefits clearly defined.

Take time to accelerate into the change gear

Making effective change takes time, and yet time is probably the one thing you have least of. Sponsors must be seen to devote time and energy to the change project. People notice, and if the CEO and other executives don’t appear committed then commitment will not come further down the line.

The responsibility for change, and for exhibiting the new behaviours required cannot be delegated.

Explain why you need to change

The smoker who wants to quit is at a distinct advantage here, in most cases. He or she only has themselves to convince, except in the circumstance, perhaps, where the spouse is a smoker, too.

When making organisational change, whole teams of people have to be convinced of the need to change and the benefits of doing so. The purpose of change must be communicated in a clear and concise way and answer these questions:

  • Why the need to change?
  • What are the goals of change?
  • What exactly is being changed?
  • Who will be affected and how?
  • What are the individual and team benefits from the change?

These affirmations of change may need to be repeated many times, and then used when reaffirming the need to change when the will to do so weakens, just as the smoker who is tempted to have that ‘one last cigarette’ has to think through all the benefits of quitting (sometimes again, and again).

Sometimes it’s necessary to slow down to speed up the change in hand.

To make change stick, stay focussed

Smokers who are quitting, even the most determined, lapse when things get tough. The natural reaction to a stressful situation is to reach for that cigarette. It calms the nerves, gives the hands something to do, and helps the concentration. Or at least that is what the smoker thinks. Actually, the act of reverting to the old habit is no more than coming back to a comfort zone.

Change must not be distracted. Stay focussed on the end goal, reiterate the aims, advantages, and benefits. Above all else, remain disciplined.

This is especially true of change leaders. If a change leader reverts to the old ways, all the wrong messages will be sent. Soon everyone will be back to the old way of working.

Know that there will be tough times ahead when you plan for organisational change, and you will be able to plan for those tough times, committing proper resources and making real commitment to work through any potential roadblocks that might hamper organisational change.

Get everyone educated to change

A quitting smoker needs a support mechanism. The best way to do this is to enlist the help of family and friends, letting them know why it is important and what each can do to help the smoker kick the habit.

It’s the same with organisational change. Get people involved. Let them know what their roles are, what is expected of them, and how they can become involved in the change process.

This is employee engagement at its most active. Don’t imagine that people can be dictated to. They must buy into the organisational change project, and feel like they own it. This process has to start before the change initiative is implemented. Communicate… a lot.

Change is hard work. It’s never a walk in the park. It takes time, effort, education, confirmation, and reconfirmation. It takes willpower and discipline. Prioritise change with all these needs in mind, and your organisational change will be successful. Fail to do so, and you’ll be killed by the smoke before you know there’s a fire to put out.

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Change management, innovation, leadership

As you can imagine, I spend a fair amount of time keeping up with changes and challenges faced by industry and business in the fields of change management and innovation. So I’m constantly on the lookout for information and news that may impact behaviour and best practice across organisations.

Here’s a pick of what I’ve been attracted to this week:

Change Management

Cairns is very much a member of Australia top-of-the-town non-executive … get more women in senior management roles inAustralia and thinks the number of … “The rate of change is actually atrophying,” he told a business event this month.

Stena Drilling has pleaded guilty in Australia to charges related to a fatal … on the Stena Clyde failed to apply the Stena management ofchange principles in …

… be ushering in an unprecedented era of change for Australia’sbiggest retailer. … Arguably Woolies’ management have been too determined to hold the line …

It’s an exciting time to be in manufacturing, but that means change in the industry — and lots of it. The existing and emerging technologies that are creating a …

Innovation News

Industry lobby group internet Australia has called for the formation of a trans-Tasman regional innovation zone, where Australia and New Zealand explore the …

Global telecommunications giant Huawei on Wednesday furthered their innovation and talent development, investing A$30 million (US$22.1 million) in a new …

THE Australian Museum has hosted its annual Eureka Prizes night, giving … international collaboration and rural innovation, The Australian Museum said in a …

Arno Lenior is one of Australia’s leading marketers having most recently …. We looked at our overall innovation program including crossover to Australia, and we …

Where My Words Have Travelled

publish around the place from time to time. Here’s the latest:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the subject of a lot debate in the blogosphere. Will they be a disruptive technology for universities? Will they take over the trainer’s job in corporate organizations?

From a higher education perspective, it’s easy to see the selling point for students

In 1987 Paul O’Neill became the CEO of Alcoa. Taking over the helm of a company usually means making grand statements about finances, about cutting costs, and change the investment priorities. But what O’Neill did at his first investor press conference was a little different.

To improve productivity in organizations you need only get leaders out in the field

The controversial Koch brothers wrote a book called the Science of Success (2007). I don’t recommend you read it as it’s one of those books that successful people write where they think they were successful because of these management techniques, whereas it’s more likely that because they were successful they could try out these management techniques (fads of the day?).

According to the ASTD’s 2013 State of the Industry Report, U.S. organizations spent $164.2 billion on employee learning and development in 2012. The report does a good job of categorizing and classifying expenditure. But what about ROI? How can managers structure training to ensure a positive ROI?

How often have you rolled out a new IT project that failed to deliver the desired benefits? Most projects fail to deliver benefits because of poor change management. Little to no attention is paid to the people side.

From the Vault

I MENTIONED to a project sponsor the other days that I was about to do a brainstorming workshop, and she laughed at me saying how “1980’s” the word ‘brainstorming’ was. I don’t know what to call it any more, maybe a more sophisticated word is ‘ideation’.

I’m often asked what I consider to be the most important component in a change management program. For me the answer is easy – the single biggest factor affecting the success of any corporate change program is its leadership. When change is all encompassing, that means the buck really does stop with the CEO

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The 3 Step Strategy to be Proactive at Managing Change in Your Business

As I wrote in my last article, there is nothing more constant than the continuity of change, and technology is changing the economy at a faster pace than ever before. There has been much written about the collapse of businesses that failed to change. In truth though, more businesses fail not because they fail to change but because they fail to change quickly enough. They react to the market around them rather than be proactive.

Why are most big companies reactive rather than proactive?

The problem that most big companies have when it comes to change is that are scared of change. They fear for their profits, and executives fear for their salaries, bonuses, and perks. So they seek to maintain the status quo, forgetting that it was their willingness to be proactive that gained them their market dominance in the first place.

Once upon a time, every market leader was an ugly duckling, the upstart that was astute enough to deliver what its target audience craved.

As sales increase and profits start rolling in, organisations grow. When they get real big, the fear of making mistakes becomes so great that they stop innovating. They lose touch with their customers. When markets begin to change – for example because of technological change – these big companies become firefighters. Soon, so much energy is put into reacting to change that they lose even more focus on the ultimate goal.

The pressure for change is higher now than ever before

Technology is changing the way the whole world works at an extremely rapid pace. Twenty five years ago the internet was in its infancy. We still listened to music on vinyl, watched films at the cinema or on VHS at home. We’ve blown through all of these innovations.

Television can be accessed anywhere. We not only speak to people the other side of the world with clarity, but we can see them at the same time, too. VHS has been replaced by DVD, and that has now been replaced by streaming video-on-demand.

The world of work is changing, too. Robots carry out medical procedures. Tiny hand-held computers allow us to be connected to office systems anywhere in the world. And there is something called the cloud, too.

Change creates uncertainty, and irrational fear. I say irrational because, as I’ve touched on above, we all go through change in our personal lives every day. We may hanker for the nostalgic, but we embrace the modern. Without doing so, we would cease to walk in the same circles as our friends and colleagues. Just like a company that fails to change, we would, effectively, become obsolete in a changed world.

So how do we break down the fear of change at an organisational level? How do big companies become proactive at change management and stop being reactive firefighters?

Here are the 3 steps your business should take to create a proactive change management strategy:

Step 1: Learn to anticipate

Great sportsmen remain in their game a long time because they learn how to anticipate what will happen next. Commentators call this ‘vision’ or a ‘footballing brain’. They have learned to read the game, anticipate where the ball is going to go, and compensate for any physical weakness.

It’s the same with change management in the business context. Borders continuously refused to accept the world was changing, and consequently failed to anticipate upcoming change.

  • Learn to look at your competitors differently. Wat is it that they are doing that you aren’t?
  • Get closer to your customers. Constantly ask how you can make their experience better.
  • Be aware of technological advance and ask how it might impact your customer and your product or service.

Find ways to encourage your workforce to be more proactive. Encourage experimentation, and reward intelligent failure.

Step 2: Ensure change is central to your business strategy

Make sure that the future is always on the agenda at board and executive team meetings. Encourage your people to question their vision of the future, asking ‘what if?’ scenarios.

Observe market trends regularly, and ask your executives how the organisation can stay ahead of them. Create a plan to observe, examine, dissect, and challenge your current market view.

Step 3: Communicate and implement change

With strategy and plan in place, now it is time to implement change. Help others to accept the need for change by answering the basic questions:

  • Why do we need to change?
  • What are the goals of change?
  • What will happen if we don’t change?

Help people to see what is in it for them, by first considering the impact on individuals and teams and then putting in place plans to minimise those impacts.

Encourage people to talk openly about their fears of change, and support them with coaching, training, and reinforcement. Help them to own the change process; after all, it is their organisation, too.

Don’t fail to change and become a failed business. Instead be a proactive organisation that embraces the challenge of change and leads the market.

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