Sunday 25 September 2016

6 Change Management Trends to Be Aware of

Being aware of trends across different types of organizations broadens your thinking and deepens context for what you are trying to achieve. This is true of change management. Often, the best strategies, tactics and solutions are found outside the industry in which you participate.

Here are six trends I have observed across industries and public institutions.

Managing multiple changes while delivering short-term results is business as usual for all 
It used to be that change was an event and now it's business as usual. Leaders and their teams are tasked with leading and participating in multiple changes and delivering their annual objectives. Adding to the complexity, change agendas can suddenly be reprioritized due to internal or external circumstances, increasing work and reducing performance.

Leaders need to ask the question, "how do I prepare myself and my team to stay resilient as we continually adapt and deliver results?"

Organizational agility is the 'Holy Grail' of effectiveness
Most organizations want the ability to move quickly and easily, ready to respond to external opportunities or threats. 

Many organizations aren't set up for flexibility, unknowingly encouraging static thinking and rigid behaviour in the interest of consistency and efficiency. Examples of barriers to agility include strategy happening at a point in time and not being revisited; changes to implementation being viewed as addressing mistakes and increasing risk; and rewarding completion of static plans and projects. 

Organizational agility is a mindset enabled by structures, roles, processes, technologies and behaviours. It is only attained through adjustments to how people work.

Leaders are expected to play a greater role in change
Leaders have always been expected to lead change. What is changing is how "leadership" is defined. The "tell me what to say" style of management exhibited by some leaders is rapidly declining; all successful leaders must be fully engaged and personally commitment.

Proactively, organizations are being clear about the leader's role in change and investing in capability development to help them excel in it.

Disruption is desired, little understood and feared
Many leaders want to disrupt their industries to gain competitive advantage. The reality is they are more likely to be disrupted by new competitors, especially if they lead large organizations that offer higher-end products driven by innovation.

Most leaders are not aware of the definition of disruption by Clayton M. Christensen and recently expanded upon by Joshua Gans. Acquiring knowledge is the first step to gaining perspective on disruption and how it can support or jeopardize an organization.

Behaviour-led culture is back as a primary enabler of performance
There is a transition from a process-focused approach to change to a behavioural one. The belief that changing behaviours is the way to change people's mindsets is coming back into popularity. Cultural behavioural norms are being assessed and new ones are being considered.

An interesting twist is that organizations are tagging behaviours to specific strategic objectives like growth and effectiveness. 

Consistency through centralization continues to be popular
Organizations are continuing to centralize their strategies, decision making and processes in the interest of alignment, consistency and efficiency. Power is shifting from business units to the central body to align groups and measure and benchmark performance. 

In this environment, influence without formal control is essential to plan and implement cross-area changes.

Identifying trends and considering how they impact your organization can broaden your perspectives and give you ideas on how to achieve your goals. Knowing how change management is evolving is one way to increase your agility as you lead change.


Thursday 1 September 2016

Is 'disruption' getting in the way of being disruptive?

I have been trying to figure out why the word 'disruption' triggers a consistent response from most business professionals I speak with: silence. I have observed this in one-on-one conversations, team meetings and large workshops. Are people pondering how they could disrupt their businesses or are they immobilized by the thought of being disrupted?

'Disruption' continues to be a hot topic in the business media. For years, major sites and publications have profiled industries that are being disrupted by new competitors with innovative products and operating models  entertainment (Netflix), e-commerce (Square), shaving (Dollar Shave Club), etc. 

A term coined by Clayton M. Christensen, 'disruptive innovation,' refers to a new competitor providing simpler, more affordable and accessible products or services to consumers who couldn't afford the more costly and complex existing offers.

His theory explains how established businesses become disrupted because their operating models are built for higher margin and bigger scale markets. New competitors take market share by servicing the more price-constrained consumers.

Some companies (Google, Amazon, Apple) have chosen to disrupt themselves in order to grow their market or defend against new competitors. As Facebook's 'Little Red Book' proclaims, "If we don't create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will."

Many leaders use a broader definition of business disruption: any large change that blows up how we currently do business. Forbes' definition provides clues to why this definition is emotionally charged: "disruption takes a left turn by literally uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day." 

Perhaps the perplexing reaction to the term is caused by a fear of not knowing how to disrupt their industry. Disruption is seen as something that will be done to them versus an opportunity to be seized. Another reason could be that fundamentally changing your business model carries a risk of jeopardizing short-term performance.

I no longer use the word disruption with my clients because it doesn't inspire productive conversations. There are many substitutes – evolution, transformation, reinvention  that stimulate ideas about how to do things (mindsets, actions and behaviours) differently to achieve better results. 

Here are some tips to enable new thinking about your business:
  • Select an executive sponsor who is open to new ideas
  • Create a cross-functional team with a mandate to think differently
  • Hold in-person meetings away from your offices
  • Make it safe to challenge existing strategies and assumptions
  • Provide the team with stimuli from other industries
  • Commit to pilot the best ideas to test and learn from them

Semantics is an important enabler of change. A term that resonates with one culture could fall flat in another. Some words, like disruption, don't spark opportunity, creativity or courage in most. 'Choose your words carefully,' is an adage that applies to change. The best term to motivate 'game-changing' improvement is the one that inspires the best innovative thinking.