Some say that the practice of change management was coined in the early 2000s, which grew out of the need to address the impacts change was having on people. As we look back over the past decade, change continues to evolve. Here’s an overview of some we’ve seen over the last ten years:
We now use the internet for far more than school and work, and the largest purchasing platforms and streaming sites are hosted on the web. There’s almost nothing you can’t do online!
Customers are in charge! Businesses can thrive or die based on reviews, and how they respond to customer inquiries. Customers are also increasingly controlling what kind of products we see. A great example is when a female fan of Stephen Curry a professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors, wrote him a letter about not being able to find his signature shoe in girl sizes. Five months later, she helped co-design the Curry6 shoe for #internationalwomensday.
The pace of technological advancement is faster than ever. Personal Assistant Devices like Google Home, and Amazon’s Alexa are extremely common.
Climate change is real and we are taking action. We’re being more conscious about what we consume, the products we buy and corporate social responsibility has become common practice among all businesses. We’re also seeing a new wave of action taking place with individuals taking a strong stance to lead change like Greta Thunberg and most recently Joaquin Phoenix, who has not shied away from sharing his perspectives about climate change.
These are just some of the decade’s highlights, and if the past few years have been indicative of anything, it’s that change is constant. It’s big and it touches just about everyone making it natural for the practice of change management to also evolve.
We recently sat down with Greg Roth, Managing Partner, Harbinger SCR, and Yvonne Akpoveta, Founder, The Change Leadership, to learn more about the new face of change and the need for it to be practical to meet increasing demands from people and businesses.
In your opinion, how can businesses and people manage change today?
GR: There are volumes and volumes of books that strive to answer that very question. If you don’t already know, there is no silver bullet—no guaranteed path to follow. However, a good place to start is by asking the question “how thick is your armour?”. For some, change feels like a constant assault. A process to survive, a thing to protect and insulate yourself from. By being the last person standing you allow yourself to believe you have navigated the change well. It’s not enough to survive though, you need to thrive through change today. Don’t let that armour weigh you down and prevent you from a nimble pivot. Be vulnerable and consider letting go and starting fresh. This is the mindset you need to have to drive that change! Remember, change is often happening because your current processes aren’t working or aren’t competitive anymore. The pace of change is happening much faster than before so there’s no time to waste.
YA: In today’s disruptive business environment, change is happening at an accelerated speed that requires us to respond faster and better than ever before. We need to start to see ‘managing change’ as both an essential ‘skill’ and ‘role’, and be equipped to do so. Managing or leading change is fast becoming a critical skill for professionals in today’s ever-changing and disruptive business environment. Now more than ever professionals are required to manage and lead change as part of their day to day jobs or on behalf of their organization, which is where the requirement as a skill comes into play.
However, when it comes to managing medium-large sized initiatives or complex business changes, organizations need to also consider having experienced Change Manager roles, who will have both the ‘art’ (expertise) and ‘science’ (methodology) of managing the people side of changes.
What are the main drivers for this renewed approach to managing change within businesses today?
GR: Business environments are becoming exceptionally complex and the dynamics impacting a change make it nearly impossible to truly manage the change itself. There are simply too many variables to consider. If you’re applying a “control” mindset, it will be a tough row to hoe. Change enablement is the real engine behind the most powerful change programs. Today more than ever, it’s important for employees at all levels to be empowered to contribute and continuously develop. Figure out that equation and you will have the ability to not only grow but to thrive through the change process.
YA: The fast pace of disruption, the increasing demands of consumers, and the speed, capability, and accessibility to technology. These and more are all driving the need for us to respond accordingly, or be left behind. When it comes to technology, we are witnessing a drastic shift where digital technologies are moving from being enabling functions, to be at the core of business strategy, and inadvertently bigger impact on the people side of things, and hence the need for change to be managed more effectively.
What are some attributes or leader capabilities needed for one to lead their people through change?
GR: The most motivational leaders are ones who can use real examples and real stories to bring the case for change to life and most importantly communicate the “what’s in it for me” from the point of view of the individual employee. Leaders gain that knowledge by being in the trenches. They are visible. They listen. They then take that knowledge and motivate one person at a time. Those people, in turn, are your Harbingers, communicating their support for the change themselves; becoming the true agents of change.
YA: Leading change is now no longer a skill for a select few, change leadership capabilities have become one of the most critical skills needed in today’s 4th Industrial Revolution by leaders, managers and contributors alike. They need to be empowered and equipped with the leadership capabilities and mindset to enable them nimbly and ably navigate change within their sphere of influence. This includes the ability to lead and influence others, to collaborate with others, to identify and manage barriers to change with a focus on the big picture, to remain focused in the midst of disruption, and to be willing to take risks and be innovative. And this is just to mention a few.
We’ve shared some highlights around some of the biggest changes that have happened over the last decade. What are some of the disrupters you foresee impacting people over the next ten years?
GR: Those that address our relationship with simplicity. How often do you catch yourself wishing for “the easy button”? We demand it in nearly every aspect of our lives but rarely get it. There are vast populations of people that don’t have the time, interest or capacity for anything other than the easiest of solutions. Our attention spans are measured in seconds not minutes, and they are shrinking year over year. But here’s the challenge and Einstein said it best, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” It will be those that apply genius to the right change initiatives that really serve to disrupt.
YA: Some of the biggest disruptors will be driven by technology. The advanced use and adoption of AI, robotics, automation and other emerging technologies will have a big impact on the way we work and the jobs landscape, we will see jobs going away and new jobs emerging. There will be greater advances in the adoption of personal assistants, autonomous vehicles, and the use of service robots in places such as hospitals, restaurants, financial institutions and more.
What are some tricks and tips people can use to prepare for changes now and in the future?
GR: Contemplate your relationship with pain. Ray Dalio draws attention to a simple equation in his book titled “Principles”. The equation is: pain + reflection = progress. This very formula should launch every change initiative. There’s a business problem to solve or some kind of a pain to address. Regardless, if you are a leader or an individual contributor, start with a list of business impacts including pain points the change will cause, and what pain points the change will address. Identify their severity and likely duration. From there, you can develop real strategies to enable change for yourself and your organization.
YA: I feel that everyone and the organization should have a plan. A plan that starts with them being clear on their short and long-term needs, followed by the need to anticipate and monitor the changes and trends that are taking place in their surrounding environment. This then allows them to better understand the impacts and opportunities to their organization or role, and respond as needed. It enables them to be in a position to strategize, position and act as needed, and pivot where necessary. Most importantly, both professionals and organizations need to be proactive. Being proactive is not optional in today’s fast-paced business environment, it is essential.