by Susan Mitnick
Change. It’s a must for any business. Whether your organization is following a 4, 5, or 7 step business lifecycle model, change probably feels like a constant as you are executing the move from one stage to the next, or even solidifying the company’s place within a given stage.
I recently had the pleasure of facilitating a discussion around change with a group of learning professionals with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Association of Talent Development, and I was intrigued by the passion around this topic. Everyone present had stories about the change they were experiencing, and there were some central themes that came to light during our conversation, the most interesting focusing around people and culture.
We started by talking about the need for executive/leader buy-in when it comes to change, as this is a common principle in change management methodology. From my experience, getting leader buy-in goes far beyond getting key executives to say that they support the change initiative at hand, but an up front commitment, and the long term patience, to the time needed to fully imbed the change into the organization. This is where so many initiatives die, as attention spans dwindle, and some other initiative takes over as the latest priority. How many change initiatives have you seen come and go, replaced by the next great idea that also comes and goes?
This in itself can be a defining element of your company’s culture. When employees smirk at the release of the next great initiative, and then sit on their hands waiting to see how long this one will last, it won’t matter how great your change management processes are. Your people, who are the embodiment of your culture, will kill it. As the great business management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Yes indeed.
Resistance to change isn’t solely a reflection of the organization’s commitment to fully execute initiatives, but is also reliant on your employees’ capacity and stamina for change. If you’re in an ever-changing environment, where changes to policies, processes, products and even desired behaviors are coming from every direction, these factors needs to be considered.
Think about how your company begins each fiscal year. Most likely it’s with a slue of new programs and initiatives to set the stage to achieve your annual business objectives. They are rolled out with much enthusiasm and fan fare. But how long does that initial enthusiasm last? Do your employees have the capacity to keep focused on mass quantities of new initiatives, while doing their daily jobs, or is the end result like buying that gym membership on January 1st? Lots of energy to get to the gym for the first month, but by mid-February your hitting the snooze button a few more times.
Every initiative is competing for your employees’ mindshare. Competing against their work and competing against the other initiatives. If you fail to take a measured approach throughout the year, at some point, your people will run out of stamina for change.
The moral of the story is that change can’t happen without your employees. With this in mind, the philosophy of less is more should be a constant consideration. Having the discipline to focus on the most critical initiatives that will provide the most gain for the company will net better results than a laundry list of low impact projects.