Change is Changing: Change Management in the Digital World
The traditional command-and-control culture that drives most companies inhibits the pace of change. What’s called for today is something different and more adaptive. Both 2020 and 2021 saw unprecedented shifts in the workplace and among the workforce, and organizations had to pivot to meet the new demands. Out of necessity, we learned how to adapt quickly during the pandemic; smart companies will make sure those lessons don’t get lost.
As organizational change management (OCM) practitioners, we must engage in the push and pull of emerging needs and innovative approaches as we balance the traditional approaches of OCM that have long been the standard.
Two of the attributes of a high-performance, adaptive culture are (a) strong leadership that empowers and engages employees and (b) a mindset of continuous learning and openness to change. These attributes allow an inflow of ideas across the industry ecosystem. Insights from partners, competitors and outside industry contacts can drive ideas beyond the immediate thought boundaries. But only if we stay open to them.
To address the complexity of the unique needs and motivators of a multi-generational workforce, organizations need digital tools, techniques and expertise to mine and curate individualized data. Data-driven insights become a core differentiator in executing change programs and understanding employees at a personal level.
In short: The business of change is changing. More than ever, we have to use data wisely to adapt at the pace required.
Meet the Change Archetypes
Traditional OCM is grounded in a variety of well-known theories, methodologies and practices, and sometimes customized in-house solutions. These methods are proven and rely on similar practices to prepare, support and help individuals, teams and organizations prepare to change. Such change methods also allow us to easily identify the challenges an organization may face, as well as the archetypes that inhabit most change programs.
We know the players, and we devise our plans and approaches accordingly. Note: when it comes to understanding our people, it may be wise to look at employees in these “player” groups because people hew more closely to these archetypes than they do to their generational stereotypes.
The go-getter loves, and thrives in, change. Believes in continuous improvement and is keen to volunteer as an evangelist or a trainer to get in at the front end of the transformation. Is high energy, vocal in the business and looks for ways to be a part of the program to ensure it runs successfully.
The naysayer is fatigued by change and does not want to go through it anymore. Is tired of having to pick up the pieces of failed change implementations. The naysayer is vocal about why change is not needed at a particular point in time and often wants to finish things that have already been started before starting something new.
The unruffled is happy to go with the flow. Deals with change, when necessary, does the bare minimum to carry on with business as usual.
The logician makes calculated decisions around the worthiness of the change program taking place and needs hard facts on ROI, benefits realized and time it will take to complete the transformation. Usually asks a lot of questions during comms events, training and to leadership.
The guru is absolutely comfortable with change. Inhabits a state of change nirvana. Handles these things like a pro, takes everything in stride, provides guidance and wisdom and comes with suggestions and solutions to what has and hasn’t worked in the past.
Though many organizations see their challenges as unique and unlike any seen before, we know better. We recognize the common threads that allow us to meet the needs of all the players in an enterprise, based on what we have seen and our own experiences in client environments.
What Does All this Mean?
As practitioners, it’s critical for organizational change experts to pivot and support change programs differently than we have in the past. Even a few years ago, we as practitioners had the benefit of more time to design and implement change programs. This means supporting the ways in which we must adjust, adopt new approaches, and pivot quickly in the face of learnings and workplace demands.
A study published by Statista shows there has been a significant reduction in the time taken to implement successful transformations. This demonstrates that organizations can transform themselves in a shorter timeframe and should invest in organizational change to drive successful adoption of their transformation programs. However, OCM practitioners need to move away from purely traditional models of change, which usually require a runway to adapt/adopt behaviors, and instead look to embrace non-conventional tools and approaches to accelerate the pathway to change and meet the needs of the workforce.
Meeting the Adaption/Adoption Challenge of Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is big business, with spending on the rise since 2017, when the global investment was just shy of $1 trillion. That number increased to $1.3 trillion in 2020 and is expected to increase to $2.8 trillion by 2025.
Despite all the investment in digital transformation, we see, time and time again, organizations face the adaption/adoption challenge. Realizing a sustained change in the behaviors of an organization requires agile application of change management tools and techniques focused on driving both adaptation of behaviors and adoption of new ways of working. To drive sustainable change, the end-to-end employee journey needs to be considered and backed with clear KPIs to realize benefits and see a return on investment.
Traditional, behavioral-based OCM methodologies give us insights and allow us to begin to diagnose the current state. They give us the framework or the foundation. The data gives us the details. The traditional frameworks tell us about the organization; the data make the organization dynamic.
By understanding the distinct drivers for individuals — the millennial digital native and the technically timid boomer — we can close the space between them by leveraging information to demonstrate how similar their resistance to change really is, and to drive adoption and transformation success.
What we’ve addressed here only begins to highlight how to drive successful transformational change across organizations. If you would like to learn more, we invite you to connect with us via LinkedIn.