Businesses are facing major disruptions which bringing new and urgent demand for change. With some industries on the brink of extinction, change isn’t about fine-tuning — it’s existential. However I still see businesses going about change, using traditional approaches based on heavy processes and lengthy timelines. This is not want is needed.
Many businesses need to fundamentally rethink their product and service portfolios, reinvent their supply chains, pursue large-scale organisational restructuring, determine on the fly how to operate in a virtual world, support a digital way to reach their clients….and do all this in a quick and agile way.
How can it be done?
A sense of urgency
It seems too many still live in a bubble of their own. Maybe they should waste less time on social media and have a good look around them. I still meet to many persons, even business leaders or owners, who lack a “a sense of urgency.” To do that, your role as a business leaders is to clear communicate over and over again your change vision that outlines a compelling vision of your future state, including the principles and values that will guide your response and provides specific actions you’ll take. Moving quickly will mean that not everyone will be buy-into your vision from day 1. But it will make clear where you stand, put an end to any speculation and buy you time (though not much) to develop a plan. I still see too many businesses discussing things over and over again rather than tending to the necessary changes. I wonder, if such people have a water pipe that burst in their home or their home on fire, will they sit down and discuss or attend to the urgent situation immediately?
Empower the people who are best positioned to drive change from the beginning.
In times of crisis, the top business leaders are almost always preoccupied with crisis management. Such top business leaders can accelerate the change process by empowering a group of trusted and capable people in the organisation who can be redeployed full-time against the challenge at hand. Moreover, as I have been saying companies should also look to build an external network of advisors (business and legal at least) who can quickly be tapped to weigh in on business threats where in-house expertise doesn’t exist. This is important. Some think I say this as I am a business consultant myself. Its not true. Having such advisors at the ready will reduce your response time and lend credibility to the plans that are created.
Embrace a “test-and-learn” approach.
Recent events have confirmed what many change leaders already knew — though your change vision is critical to driving alignment and buy-in, that picture will seldom stay the same from the start of a change project to its finish. Even projects on short timelines, will need to respond to ongoing volatility internally and externally. In such a reality, where things are changing from one day to the next, business leaders need to:
(i) Establish ongoing listening mechanisms that allow them to keep a pulse on employee and stakeholder sentiment.
(ii)Welcome changing requirements, even late in the process, and modify change initiatives, or even the change vision itself, to ensure the work continues to be relevant and will deliver value.
(iii) Adopt agile practices, such as daily standing up meetings, that enable continuous coordination and evaluation of new variables as they surface.
(iv) Use “fast-turn” and informal communications channels to update employees on strategy and what is needed from them.
Shift your perspective from long-term to short-term
More frequent check-ins should be apparent to business leaders looking to drive rapid behaviour change. More frequent feedback enables real-time coaching and allows managers to place the emphasis on what is most needed from the employee in that moment. Managers should focus on behaviors that will be critical for the future of work and will support change objectives, such as working successfully on a hybrid team, supporting coworker inclusion, practicing compassion and empathy and, yes, becoming more agile. Rewards should be used to help drive swift behaviour change. Rewards need not be financial ones. Non-financial rewards play an even larger role in more challenging economic times. Research indicates that non-financial rewards (e.g., training or recognition) are more instrumental in talent engagement and retention than financial ones.
No one expects to have change occur overnight. But it surely needs to be accelerated. As I outlined, there are ways to accelerate change in an increasingly fast-paced and uncertain world. So I plead business leaders to realise that now, more than ever, is the time to consider how to make change management work faster and harder. If we know anything for certain in this moment, it’s that more change is coming.