How can your business survive change?

Change is happening.

Mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs and downsizing are commonplace these days. Budgets are squeezed, people are stretched. You need to make savings, find efficiencies and make more bang for the company’s buck.

Sound familiar?

Alongside the financial challenges you need to manage, change also introduces uncertainty for your people. Uncertainty will split them into two camps – those that embrace change and those that fear it.

The Fear Camp will slowly start to disengage from the business. Initially hiding behind process flows, procedure documentation and job descriptions. Clinging to the familiar. Enthusiasm for the job is shelved, waiting to see what happens next with the change. No point in expending too much effort before everyone knows what they are doing is there? In the extreme, this becomes settling for doing as little as possible, just waiting for a redundancy payoff.

The Embrace Camp will see the change as an opportunity. An opportunity to fix things they know don’t work very well, to try new roles or learn new things. Brimming with enthusiasm for the future, surely there’s no need to work in the ways we used to? Everyone knows that our processes weren’t perfect anyway but we can fix all that with our shiny new Future Mode of Operation. If left unchecked, all eyes look to the horizon; immediate concerns all but forgotten.

People in both camps exhibit the same behaviour trait which will damage the performance and effectiveness of the organisation. The trait is best described in 3 simple words: “Why should I?”

Why should I be responsible for dealing with this customer issue? It isn’t in my job description.
Why should I be responsible for this key step in our service offering? My team is moving onto dealing with more strategic things, another team will need to pick this up.

Lack of ownership. Lack of focus. Lack of care. And it can be contagious…

So how can you combat this as your organisation moves through change?

Communication.
Absolutely key but so often done so badly. Tell your people what the destination looks like. Share where the company is heading and what the journey might look like. Not just once, often. Remove the uncertainty. Ensure the messaging gets all the way through your organisational hierarchy – do not assume each management level is passing the information along as most likely they aren’t.

Conversation.
Your organisation is made up of experts in running your business. They know the ins and outs of how to get stuff done, what works and what needs fixing. Don’t ignore the knowledge you have at your fingertips. Speak to and listen to your people. Help them use their skills and ideas to help the company reach its destination.

Commitment.
Do the job properly. So many organisations set a new strategy and then do not invest to manage the change across the business. You have enough people working for you that really care whether the business succeeds or fails. Show them that you care too and give them the time and resources needed to successfully create change.

Focus on your people as people, not just as headcount, and you will find your organisation more capable of thriving through change.

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