Robert Kennedy once said “Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.” It appears that more and more organisations try to live by these words these days. World-renowned thought leaders have been making the case for organisational change and adaptability for many years now, including Gary Hamel, Yves Morieux, Dan Pontefract, R “Ray” Wang, Jason Averbook and others. While many companies still stick to the “if-it’s-not-broken-don’t-fix-it” principle, the forward-looking and innovative ones try to stay ahead of the competition by developing the habit of embracing change – both in terms of products and corporate culture.
Dan Pontefract,Chief Envisioner at Telus and Author of Flat Army, and William Tincup, Principal Analyst at KeyInterval Research, sat down for a quick chat in the Media Lounge at HR Tech Europe 2014 to discuss change, developing the culture of adaptability, and embracing such trends as social and mobile. You can watch the video below.
So what makes change so difficult?
While the list of psychological, organisational and social factors that can make both individuals and corporate cultures resistant to change is endless, here are some points to keep in mind.
- Organisational change requires every member of the company to fully commit to it. One cannot expect corporate culture to change if such change is imposed selectively; not only will the efforts appear useless and superficial, it will create an atmosphere of resentment and suspicion. While for start-ups and small companies change management may not seem too onerous a process, mid-size and large organisations have hundreds, if not thousands, of employees to take on the new path, which requires implementing new learning systems, facilitating constant cross-departmental communication, repeatedly evaluating and re-assessing the progress, and a dozen other factors to juggle.
- The surrounding structures (reward and recognition systems, for example) must be in tune with the new behavior, says the McKinsey&Company study. Ensuring the culture of change gets accepted on every level of organisational hierarchy is on its own a complex and often long process. Adjusting the surrounding structures – be it flexible working, tele-commuting, recruitment processes or recognition systems – is crucial in the consolidation of change.
- People may focus on the short-term goal of self-defense, often at the cost of long-term learning. According to a study by Stanford University, change may often be perceived as a threat to one’s environment. As a result, the psychology of self-defense and the need to protect one’s self from outside threats takes over from the long-term vision of success following acceptance of change.
- Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings, says John Kotter, a Harvard Business School Professor. Presenting an individual with facts, analysis and projections to prove an argument in favor of change is not enough. The leader should appeal to a more emotional side of his employees to explain how change will affect the company on a very personal level.
- Moving forward despite relapses. Whether you are trying to quit smoking or change your everyday behavior in a workplace, relapses are often part of the deal. Changing one’s behavior often puts additional pressure and stress on an individual, meaning that once in a while, this individual will revert to old entrenched habits. The difficulty lies in the ability to move past occasional relapses without getting dragged back into the habit one tries to modify.
What are your main challenges in changing your behavior or that of your team? Share in the comments section.
Don’t miss inspirational presentations on change management, leadership and innovation at HR Tech Europe 2015, March 24-25, London.