Change remains one of the most topical – and in many ways, still controversial – aspects of organisational management. The tortuous process involved in recognising and acknowledging the need for change certainly remains a central issue in this regard. As does the fact that every business entity has its own, unique ‘persona’ – reflecting the people who lead and work within it, as well as the competitive environment in which it operates. These preliminary considerations should be more than enough to deter thoughts of one-size-fits-all solutions. Simply stated, both the stimuli for change and the way change is perceived and handled, will vary dramatically from company to company.
Of course, the ability of individuals to change will determine the success of change at organisational level. Organisations don't change, individuals do. No matter how large a project one is taking on, the success of that project ultimately lies with each employee doing their work differently, multiplied across all of the employees impacted by the change. Effective change management requires an understanding for and appreciation of how one person makes a change successfully. Without an individual perspective, we are left with activities but no idea of the goal or outcome that we are trying to achieve.
We also know that change can scare a lot of people. And in viewing change-related challenges from an organisational perspective, we often tend to overlook the fundamental role of the individual. Are today’s executives open to, and primed to deal with change? Do they understand the pivotal role they have in helping their organisation evolve along the path of long-term, sustainable success?
From a professional standpoint, there is no doubt that, at individual level, the ability to manage change will determine one’s relevance within the workplace, whatever the role and responsibility. Today, executives at all levels are expected to manage change effectively. Innovation is becoming more than a buzzword. It is making its way into job descriptions and performance reviews. And producing results is simply not enough; one needs to be able to show that one can make the results more sustainable, and profitable. The new reality is that executives at all levels must be adept at leading and/or coordinating some kind of change at various points in their careers.
In my professional experience, I find that an increasing number of top executives do embrace the significance of change management – the tools and structure meant to control the change effort – and understand the concept of change leadership, which is concerned with optimising the effects of the change effort. However, many still tend to seriously underestimate the importance of selling effectively the importance of change within their organisations, and empowering their people to deliver change.
Corporate leaders and executives at all levels need to be aware of this issue, and tackle it head on. They need to promote the idea – the reality, as it is - that change is one of the most powerful professional development tools available to individuals, and ultimately to the organisation. And they need to pursue this objective through a formal, dedicated training programme.
Our executives must be trained to think of themselves as individual agents of change. Among others, they need to be aware of their company’s business realities, in order to recognise that there is indeed a need for change. They need to have a concept of timing – knowing when the time is ripe to recommend and push for change, with minimal disruption. They need to know how to package and promote sustainable actions towards change, with attainable objectives. And they need to be prepared to have the overwhelming desire, and the mental toughness, to withstand and overcome resistance.
At an organisational level, on the other hand, we need to evaluate what tools we have to help individuals make changes successfully. While change happens one person at a time, there are processes and tools that can help facilitate this change across groups and organisations. All this has to be done within a strategic perspective, encapsulating the essential components of successful change management.
At the end of the day, as a result of this focused, structured approach, the organisation will be gaining a crop of executives who will not only embrace the idea of change, but who will also turn out to be credible, reliable and enduring leaders. This will also ensure that change within your organisation will be part of an evolutionary process, and not merely short-term, piecemeal substitution.