How to build a change capable organisation

Many organisations and their workforces are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of change.

Change in our organisations is increasingly relentless.

In this disruptive world there are brutal consequences if any organisation fails to build the capabilities to change quickly and effectively.

Business performance deteriorates rapidly, they can’t keep up with competitors and fall into decline, recovery from this decline is extra-ordinarily tough and can become terminal, the engagement of employees becomes increasingly difficult and more and more employees suffer from ‘change fatigue’.

Related: The disruption of Disney

What’s driving this?

Firstly, our societies are undergoing fundamental change. Since the turn of the century we have seen long established elites being seriously challenged, big governments being threatened by the rise of small parties and street protests, emerging markets forcing power and trade away from North America and Europe and religious affiliations are undergoing significant shifts from long-established religions to newer more evangelical faiths.

Secondly, this wave of change is seriously impacting our organisations. They are coming under the constant threat of disruption from new, smaller and more agile competitors. Deregulation, government privatisation, the mass migration to cities and extensive growth of the global consumer class are major contributors to this increased pace and level of change.

Related: 2016 CIO100: CIOs from New Zealand's top ICT using organisations talk about driving digital transformation.

We all know that new digital technologies are helping companies like Uber, Amazon or Apple disrupt long established industries. These new competitors are not encumbered by the past and can move quickly and nimbly. But even industries - where you might think disruption is not possible - are being affected. Take the beverage industry where increasing customer demands for healthier products and changing eating and drinking habits mean that US food and beverage companies have lost an equivalent of US$18 billion in market share since 2009.

Successful organisations know how to engage executives in the idea that the organisation only has a finite capacity to deliver change. David Miller, Changefirst

All of this means that the ability to deliver rapid, effective change is critical.

You aren’t going to be a player in this arena if you think that simply training a small number of project managers in change management or just bringing in external consultants will meet this challenge. The whole organisation has to possess the skills and tools to deliver change at the volume, speed and accuracy required. We call this ‘Enterprise Change Management’.

Here are the five core capabilities for ‘Enterprise Change Management’:

  • Implementing major projects: Organisations have to be able to successfully execute single projects. High performing organisations know how to build and implement change management plans for major projects. They understand the critical success factors and the risk factors that will impact change success. They have executives, managers and change agents who can execute change successfully.
  • Matching demand to capacity: Many organisations and their workforces are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of change. Successful organisations can prioritise specific change initiatives one over another. They know how to kill projects so they are not resurrected. They know how to engage executives in the idea that the organisation only has a finite capacity to deliver change.
  • Building a resilient workforce: Organisations need resilient people during periods of intense change. They need people who can thrive in turbulent environments not merely survive. Building resilience into hiring and development processes, encouraging resilient behaviour and engaging resilient people in change are vital for success.

We need people who can thrive in turbulent environments, not merely surviveDavid Miller, Changefirst

  • Developing adaptive leadership: Managing organisational change effectively is a core competency in the organisation? In the top organisations leaders see implementation as being as, if not more, important, than strategy. They realise, as Thomas Edison said, that “strategy without execution is hallucination.” They devote a lot of effort, time and skill to implementing change.
  • Creating organisational context for change: This goes beyond talking about single changes or building a set of PowerPoints. It is a way to galvanise the organisation, create urgency and reduce confusion. It describes where the organisation is heading and how it will get there. It engages people in the head and the heart. It talks about a ‘change agenda’ delivering the strategy rather than a set of apparently unconnected points of arrival for different projects.
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David Miller is author of a new book Enterprise Change Management: How to prepare your organisation for continuous change. He has helped organisations successfully implement major change for over 30 years, as a senior executive in a global company and, subsequently, through his work with Change?rst.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories