by John Jones, DeAnne Aguirre, and Matthew Calderone
A very insightful article that I recommend you read for deeper insights
Way back when (pick your date), senior executives in large companies had a simple goal for themselves and their organizations: stability. Shareholders wanted little more than predictable earnings growth. Because so many markets were either closed or undeveloped, leaders could deliver on those expectations through annual exercises that offered only modest modifications to the strategic plan. Prices stayed in check; people stayed in their jobs; life was good.
Market transparency, labor mobility, global capital flows, and instantaneous communications have blown that comfortable scenario to smithereens. In most industries — and in almost all companies, from giants on down — heightened global competition has concentrated management’s collective mind on something that, in the past, it happily avoided: change. Successful companies, as Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter told s+b in 1999, develop “a culture that just keeps moving all the time.”
This presents most senior executives with an unfamiliar challenge. In major transformations of large enterprises, they and their advisors conventionally focus their attention on devising the best strategic and tactical plans. But to succeed, they also must:
1. Address the “human side” systematically. Any significant transformation creates “people issues.”
2. Start at the top. Because change is inherently unsettling for people at all levels of an organization, when it is on the horizon, all eyes will turn to the CEO and the leadership team for strength, support, and direction
3. Involve every layer. Change efforts must include plans for identifying leaders throughout the company and pushing responsibility for design and implementation down, so that change “cascades” through the organization.
4. Make the formal case. Individuals are inherently rational and will question to what extent change is needed, whether the company is headed in the right direction, and whether they want to commit personally to making change happen.
5. Create ownership. Leaders of large change programs must overperform during the transformation and be the zealots who create a critical mass among the work force in favor of change.
6. Communicate the message. Too often, change leaders make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the new direction as clearly as they do.
7. Assess the cultural landscape. Successful change programs pick up speed and intensity as they cascade down, making it critically important that leaders understand and account for culture and behaviors at each level of the organization.
8. Address culture explicitly. Once the culture is understood, it should be addressed as thoroughly as any other area in a change program. Leaders should be explicit about the culture and underlying behaviors that will best support the new way of doing business, and find opportunities to model and reward those behaviors.
9. Prepare for the unexpected. No change program goes completely according to plan. People react in unexpected ways; areas of anticipated resistance fall away; and the external environment shifts. Effectively managing change requires continual reassessment of its impact and the organization’s willingness and ability to adopt the next wave of transformation
10. Speak to the individual. Change is both an institutional journey and a very personal one