June 28, 2022
Is change your friend or your enemy? If you are a young person leaving home for the first time and are excited about the prospects of striking out on your own – change is most likely your friend. But if you are the parent, watching your child leave the nest, and your close protection, then change could very possibly be your enemy. The same is true when it comes to introducing new ways of working in an organisation. Some people will like the ‘old ways’ because they are familiar and comfortable – they are like second nature and hence don’t take any real thinking. Whereas for others, the ‘new way’ may be quite faster, easier or simply exciting because it is different.
Whatever the case may be, it boils down to a difference of perspectives because change is about people, not rocket science.
Most of the time, when an organisation, and hence leader/manager, decide to embark on a change, they think about the tasks – the things that need to get done. For example, the project plan, communication/training plan, budget and tools that are needed to enable the change. In my experience, it is very rare for a leader to think about how they are going to lead their people in the change and the impact it will have on them beyond the ‘things’, at this stage.
However, I would argue that it is at this precise moment, when we do need to think about the type of journey the people we have to lead through this change and the impact this will have on their professional and personal lives. What they might be feeling/thinking – not just about the change itself, although that is a good start, but also about the company, the leaders/managers. What impact will this have on their home and family life? This is important to understand because none of us are impervious to isolating our feelings from work and home – there is a seeping of emotions that happens and that has an impact.
We need to use the holistic approach to change
As leaders, we need to be aware of these areas, not just because it is our duty to care on the mental health of our staff, but because this impacts how our business will survive and potentially thrive during this transition.
At a time when McKinsey reports that 75 percent of the organisations currently listed on the S&P will no longer exist in less than 5 years time, in 2027, it is vital we as leaders stand up and notice the impact of change, how our staff will feel, think, and perceive us and the business. And just to really bring this point home, bear in mind, our clients and customers will also notice how our staff feel/think and perceive, and this has a very big impact on our bottom line.
So what do we do and how do we do it?
Well, firstly we need to use the holistic approach to change. We need to understand the external and internal factors that will have an impact on the change and on our people, as we go through the change. This includes the political dynamics within an organisation as well as outside – the war in Ukraine, as well as the pandemic, has illustrated very clearly how Governmental politics plays a big impact on all our lives in different ways, generating a variety of emotions and circumstances that are complex and difficult to manoeuvre, as a leader of an organisation.
In addition, there are the economic fluctuations that follow these situations and the change in societal norms and expectations. So, we need to review the potential these impacts have on us, as leaders, and our staff, particularly in the relation to the change we are embarking, as this will greatly impact the level of success our change will have on our organisation. We also need to know what within our organisation may help or hinder the change – processes, procedures, regulations, systems, teams, etc.
If you know what your vision is and it has been defined clearly, then you can start to identify what is it that needs to happen
Second, to help achieve the vision, we need to be able to plan in a short/med/long term arena – technically this is called horizon scanning, which is part of the holistic approach to change. But practically it is about creating goals/objectives to help us achieve our greater vision. I think it is best to work backwards from the vision. For example, if you know what your vision is and it has been defined clearly, then you can start to identify what is it that needs to happen just before you achieve the vision, which are then the long term goals.
After that, you can then identify what needs to happen just before you get to the long term goals and that becomes the medium term.
Finally you can then identify what needs to happen just before the medium term goals and that becomes your short term. Going through this process really helps then identify exactly what needs to happen to get started on the journey of making the vision a reality.
These techniques makes visioning practical and can help not only individuals decide on a career path, but also for organisations in deciding what are the priorities and where should resources be invested to create the greatest impact. This also enables a degree of flexibility for leaders to plan for the future, whilst being adaptable to uncertainty and unforeseen circumstances that will inevitably occur during the 10 year vision journey.
In conclusion, the factors that impact and determine how the change will affect our people and organisation are quite vast. So to ignore these elements, is not only detrimental to our plans for change, but quite possibly catastrophic to the success. How the change is perceived, felt/thought about and experienced determines whether the change is viewed as an enemy or a friend. This, in turn, has an impact on the level of potential survival of an organisation in a time where there is a great deal of uncertainty and complexity, which is only going to increase as time goes on.
After all, we don’t have a crystal ball and hence can not plan for every eventuality, but we can prepare for managing uncertainty whilst we plan for the future to enable us and our organisation to thrive, rather than just survive change.
Jennifer Bryan is a published author, speaker and Director of Change and Leadership, who has worked with nearly 40 different organisations across multiple industries. She is also a Non Executive Board Member of the ACMP (Association of Change Management Professionals) UK Chapter. She believes in helping people – in whatever capacity she can – by making sure people are thought of first, last and throughout change projects and programmes. She has created a unique leading change framework, the ABChange Model, and uses her commercial insight to help lead people in change. Jennifer is author of Leading People in Change – A practical guide.