Making sense of change

When we see headline-grabbing forecasts such as a £480bn fall in UK economic activity we would be remiss not to consider what that means for our own organisations and whether we need to make some changes. Implementing an urgent change at a time of imminent threat or major crisis seems not only very opportune but often essential. As Karen Walker says “ironically, it’s often easier to lead a change management effort in a failing company than in a successful one”, but that is not a good reason for avoiding needed change when things are going well.

Dr. Mike Carter has written about the difficulty, cost and time to implement successful change and the pitfalls if essential steps are missed. Karen Walker points to perhaps the most important step of all for any change and that is getting buy-in from the people who need to implement the change and live with it.  

Walker points to the difficulty of taking people out of their comfort zone and changing their behaviour in order to accept new ideas and visions. They need to embrace two concepts for the change to have a chance of success. These are that they believe not only things can be different but that the future needs to be different. This requires bravery and sometimes a leap of faith on the part of the people involved.

But if they are persuaded that the change is good for them and the organisation, buy-in should follow. And why is change necessary even when the organisation is doing well? Standing still is not an option when change is happening on so many fronts such as from competitors, from customers, from government policy, from technology, from environmental changes. As Walker puts it: “being successful today does not equate to success tomorrow… things change over time – even if (however unlikely) nothing at your organization changes – your customers and your competition are changing.”

If change is unavoidable to maintain growth and avoid decline, then the more leaders can do to help their people make sense of it, the better.  

As a leader, your role is to help your organization understand that there is no such thing as a steady-state, that there is only growth or decline.