Since the dawn of civilization, if there is anything constant, it is change. The same is the case with organizations. Firms either regard it or regret it. The ones regarding, tend to keep their bottom line strong and achieve greater levels of customer success. The ones regretting, tend to die in the marketplace. Let’s take an example of how the famous Toyota production system (TPS) has changed over the years. The fact that the system is still relevant with lean and just-in-time facets is a testament to how data and analytics has changed the game. We have started relying more on data, business measures, KPIs, and dashboards to help us in better decision-making.
Let’s talk through the organizational change management process by discussing a case in point to decipher its potential. How do large global organizations like Apple, Nike, and Volvo cars maintain standardized e-commerce/ digital commerce websites across the globe? They have a unified customer journey which is consistent with the brand message and a standardized user interface platform across markets with similar product information.
Since the advent of the internet, these organizations have had their own local websites in their own markets. Regions have been sending out different messages to customers in terms of product, marketing, and brand tenets. But in the digitally connected world, the websites have become standardized to create a powerful curated story that the customers want to believe, engage, and invest in. From a bird’s eye view, this might seem like an easy problem to solve, but the internal organizational structures like local partners, markets and regional stakeholders create a lot of resistance to buy in to the global story.
After all, every market is different, every region has a contrasting consumer behavior, and regional marketing and social media managers across different markets know the local consumers better than their corporate counterparts. The globally connected consumer expects one story, one message, and a consistent set of information articulated to them in order to engage with, and invest in, the brand. That one curated story is what classically conditions the consumer to associate with the brand in everyday life and in a recurring manner. Research shows that brand consistency across all global platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%.
Taking ownership of transitioning local websites from different markets to a central brand, digital, and marketing communications unit is an excruciatingly agonizing change journey. Executives, managers, stakeholders, and employees need to assess, prepare, plan, implement, and most importantly, sustain the change in order to achieve results. It becomes critical to assess the below factors:
- Forces for change: Consumer behavior, workforce deviations, technological changes, economic shocks.
- Barriers of change: Lack of executive commitment and champion, unrealistic expectations, comfort in existing ways of working, and system operations.
- Resistance to change: Lack of understanding, lack of support, concerns about self-job, adverse changes to key relationships, and power shifts.
The initial discussions in the organization to tackle such a massive change requires a three-point framework:
- Defining the vision: Where we are now vs. where we want to be, supplemented by articulating the business drivers and customer value realization.
- Change management communications: Typically, one-to-one, face-to-face, town hall meetings, collaborative workshops, working sessions help in the change buy-in.
- Change management strategy: Meaningful change measurement, smart engagement, a supportive organization and culture, and strong change champion appointments.
It’s a bitter truth that growth is painful, change is painful, but nothing is as painful as sending disparate messages to customers and taking a hit on sales leads, net profits, and the bottom line. Organizations have handled these changes by being nimble in communications and implementations.
The graceful articulation of value and listening to various markets, partners, stakeholders, taking feedback, and understanding their expectations in the “To-Be” model goes a long way in instilling change, rather than quick decision-making, fast movement, and an authoritative approach. The very fact that a local market has to give up ownership on its own website, and has to go through the global route, to localize content, and launch local campaigns and offers is an enormous sacrifice. This also brings a negative sentiment across the enterprise and anxieties on each and everyone’s role that people have been performing successfully over the years.
Organizations heavily rely on a particular change management process, wherein they motivate the change, develop political support with partners, manage the transition, and sustain the momentum.
Typically, external perspectives like an industry-wide outlook help in driving the change. Force-field analysis on a corporate level helps assessing the costs vs. benefits of the change. Below are the steps to follow to perform the analysis:
- Enlist the driving forces and give a weighted score to each point. E.g.: Increased deployment speed, Agile-driven scaling to multiple markets, and reduced training time and maintenance.
- Enlist the restraining forces and give a weighted score to each point. E.g.: Loss of staff overtime, staff fearful of new technology, disruption in ways of working, and potential loss of jobs.
- Present a percentage value to each of the forces and compare the weights toward the end of each spectrum. If the vision is clear and it entails a positive change, the weightiness would be toward the driving forces.
While the assessments help in tackling the change in the early part of the journey, implementing massive changes in large-scale organizations takes two to five years on an average to complete. The testing times begin once we start the pilot with new processes and tools. This is where it becomes crucial to keep a track on change and measure the progress on a daily basis. This also implies we take feedback from all impacted parties on a regular basis. Some tools below help us keep track of the organizational change management strategy in place:
- Current change adoption: Change adoption goal vs. current adoption progress
- Change transition curve: Uncertainty > skepticism > exploration > commitment
- Change readiness checklist: People, process, and technology readiness
- Change management plan: Logging change requests, priority, impact, effort, approval route
- Change transition plan: Planning management, communications, human resources, staff relocation, and information technology
- Change management cost: Cost of top-down plan(s), strategy, change assessment, change execution, and long-term sustainment
- Change management questionnaire: Questions on objectives of change, achievements, effective planning, retrospective on the change process, and key lessons learned
- Change management feedback: Feedback on effective leadership, strong sense of shared purpose, understanding impact, commitment to learning, and employee involvement
Although there is no single recipe or easy recipe of tackling change, the incumbent organizations are still the one which are most impacted with regular changes (internally and externally) and are also the most mature in addressing them. This is also the reason why such organizations have perfected the change management process. The secret of an ideal organizational change management plan is to focus all efforts and resources not on fighting the old, but on building the new. And that's how the biggest challenge turns into the biggest opportunity. As we come toward the end of this change journey, let’s summarize by enlisting the various phases of change:
- Establish a sense of urgency
- Create a guiding coalition
- Develop a change vision
- Communicate the vision for buy-in
- Empower broad-based communication
- Generate short-term wins
- Never give up
- Incorporate change into culture