By Paul Arnold, Director at change management experts, Able and How

In our relentless search for new techniques to revolutionise and streamline the way we do things, technology has taken centre stage in actively disrupting the corporate landscape. This type of disruption offers a multitude of opportunities for organisations to gain competitive advantages, however, frustratingly, the value identified in these strategic decisions is all too often being eroded at the point of implementation. 

A key reason for this is the urgency to manage these technological discontinuities often leads organisations to overlook the need to adequately develop and communicate their change vision. Yet effectively managing and communicating change is a capability that businesses simply can’t thrive without.

This is where change management comes into play. The current definition for managing change is more often than not still interpreted as managing operational improvements, establishing greater cost efficiencies or process reengineering. While this goes some way to defining what change management is about, it now needs to reach beyond these three aspects.

Change can be the foundation of competitive advantage. Therefore, effective implementation of any change management programme relies on clearly identifying areas of potential conflict, addressing the needs of all within the organisation and bridging the gap between the aspirations of executives, technical project teams and the people impacted by the change.

Rolling out technical solutions on their own is not sufficient. Value is captured only through the successful adoption of change. And if those who are going to be impacted by a change don’t embrace it, regardless of how clever the strategy, how cutting edge the technology is, or how progressive the products are, the change will not be effective and value will be lost. People need to make change happen.

The challenge with change management may reside in its having become a misunderstood term and as a consequence it may have lost some of its core value. To be effective, change management should enable leadership teams and their organisations to get better at evolving. So why aren’t they improving despite the barrier to progress being so obvious?

To start with most organisations are geared towards performing ‘business as usual’ – operating highly polished repeatable processes, honed over thousands of hours of continuous improvement. This does not equip an organisation with the capability to easily undergo change successfully. In fact, in many ways that dedication to honing processes entrenches it to resisting change. 

The solution would be to develop an organisation’s change capability – improving skills, processes and tools. However, that is often blocked by yet another factor. Many leadership teams hold two limiting views on change. One, change is seen as risky. It is about disrupting the very repeatable processes that leaders have been rewarded for improving over time. And two, they see change, like many other implementation activities such as project management and risk, as something that can be delegated.  This results in leaders distancing themselves from the challenge of implementing the strategic priorities that they once championed.

Which brings us back to why so often, the value identified in the strategic decisions is being eroded despite leaders’ best intentions. Where change needs to start is with leadership’s perspective on change.

The evolving corporate landscape now requires leaders to view change management as key to capturing value. They need to stop seeing it as risky. Emphasis needs to shift from it being delegated down the hierarchical chain to deserving considerable leadership attention.

The relentless corporate pursuit for improvement and expansion can lead to exceptional growth when everyone impacted by change is fully onboard. For leaders, it means getting behind change leadership.

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