Organisational Change – Frustration or Opportunity?
“Change is the only constant in life” Heraclitus
The words “reform” and “change” have now almost become street furniture as far as how often they are heard, yet despite the frustration and fear these words incite in people, they represent something that is not only vital to organisational survival, but also something that must be mastered to remain competitive in the market.
Why? The concept of the agile organisation (from a change perspective), represents a business that can shift quickly to meet such things as:
Market changes and demands;
Competitor (particularly disruptor) initiatives;
Shifts in product/service offerings;
Technology changes; and
To create a better and more productive working culture for its people.
The cost of not being agile, at worst can mean a death sentence for a business, and as a minimum represents a very large bite out of the operational budget and consequently, the profit margin.
When we look at the cost of employee churn alone, which is a major symptom of change done badly, the average cost of turnover is conservatively estimated at $85,000 per employee (Altman, J. Lattice). Multiply this by the number of employees who leave your business.. well the maths isn’t difficult there.
Frustration or Opportunity?
For the organisation that can’t master change, all that exists is cost, loss, frustration, overwhelm. For many people in an organisation it incites fear, resentment and resistance. An attitude of “oh, here we go again” is typical – and has been embedded by the experience of a merry-go-round of historical change efforts that have led to time waste, overwhelm, redundancies/retrenchment, job dissatisfaction and a feeling that it was all for no gain.
Change, when mastered, IS an opportunity because when done right, leads to transformation, potential growth and ultimately a better chance of success. It means agility. It means change efforts that are lasting.
Mastering Organisational Change
Mastering change at an organisational level, however, isn’t as simple as rolling out a change management program because while this may provide the framework and actions, it doesn’t influence or address people’s response to change. Change management doesn’t provide leadership, a response to emotional state nor the self-awareness that a good change leader requires to be able to lead people through change.
Change leadership is the convergence of 3 elements:
These three elements are actions in themselves and are undertaken both individually and simultaneously. Change leadership as a process is an iterative one that must be applied at different levels.
This means that when change leadership is mastered in an organisational context, not only does this mean that the organisation improves, but so to do teams and individuals. This is the formula for high performing organisations, teams and people.
The Change Mindset
People don’t like change because it means shifting out of what is familiar. Even when the familiar is uncomfortable, people (in general) will resist change because discomfort with what we know is preferable to fear of the unknown. This resistance, or emotional state, is the make or break factor of any change effort because a person’s negative mindset (or emotional state) around change will not only impact on their own contribution to change, but will impact on the people around them, and ultimately on the organisation.
A change leader must have learnt the skill of shifting mindset – theirs and the people they have influence over. This requires an ability to reframe perception, adjust response, see the true opportunities that exist (for themselves, their teams and the organisation) and adjust emotional state to be open to this change. As a change leader, it also requires the ability to identify resistance in others and influence a mindset shift to empower change and the positives that come from it.
Leading Through Change
Change is perhaps an organisation’s greatest opportunity, and the organisation who masters change will lead the way in their industry. As critical as it is to business longevity and success, mastering change isn’t simple. It takes more than change management – it takes a culture and an attitude of change leadership that must be embraced and empowered at all levels of an organisation. This provides the framework for continuous improvement, agility and positioning to maximise potential and opportunity.