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Changing the Way We Change

The HR Agenda

Magazine The Japan HR Society (JHRS)
Oct. 16, 2017

Is it time for revolutionary change, not merely evolutionary changes?

 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Wise words, but sadly, not ones I can take credit for. Though, these were not the words of Charles Darwin either! That’s right, those frequently quoted words were never actually said by the late British naturalist. But those 27 words certainly do summarise the ground-breaking theory of evolution that Darwin first put forward in his book “On the Origin of Species.

 

Since the book’s original publication in 1859, Darwin’s observations of survival within the animal kingdom have also lent themselves to the business world when considering the impact of change and its consequences on the existence and survivability of corporate organisations.

 

It is not difficult to see why this is so when we consider the likes of Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster, Blackberry and numerous more. Such organisations were not just leaders in their industries, but also in positions of extreme dominance. And yet, in recent years, all these organisations have found themselves consigned to history or battling on the edge of survival. In a few more years, one wonders which other organisations will join the list of the departed?

 

And, of course, it’s not just organisations, but professions too. At the time of writing this Editorial, I am due to make my first trip to Japan to make a speech on the topic of change. It is not lost on me that the flight check-in assistants who once were so prominent in airport departure lounges are dwindling in number whist the automated self-check-in kiosk booths are on the rise.

 

And once I get to Tokyo, I may well find myself trying the Yurikamome Rail Line, which famously began operations running along the Tokyo Bay without any drivers or conductors in 1995. I will no doubt catch a taxi at some point, and, for sure, it will be driven by a person – though I am not sure if my taxi rides in a few years from now will also necessitate a human driver.

 

The Change that Change Management Needs
Of course, the demise of such organisations and types of professions has provided change managers, like myself, with plenty of reference material to advocate the benefits of the profession. Additionally, these examples have made for convincing arguments as to why organisations must invest into building up change management capability and its focus on managing the people side of change.

 

But perhaps change management must also change itself. After all, the pace of innovation is accelerating. And it is legitimate to ask questions such as if the need for revolutionary change is now eclipsing the need to manage mere evolutionary changes. And when asking such questions, we should leave ourselves open to the idea that the change management methodologies, approaches and thoughts of the past may not be so effective for tomorrow’s transformations.

 

Several years ago, I took it upon myself to create a change management methodology and toolkit. My ambition was to create a framework with tools and approaches that would allow change management interventions to align without friction alongside the latest project management methodologies and approaches, without compromising on catering to the needs people have when subject to an enforced transformation.

Unnecessary change
management can be bad
change management.

 

Like others before me, I found myself proposing that there were a number of things needed to support a business transformation. In my case, I found there to be seven essential components, all of which I conveniently found a descriptive “C” word for:

Clarity Defining the change
Coordination Planning for the change
Capability Building capability for the change
Commitment Creating buy-in for the change
Championing Creating change champions
Communication Communicating the change
Cementation Making the change stick

 

Diagnostic tools allow for the criticality of the 7Cs of Change to be diagnosed for individual stakeholders or groups and it is not uncommon to find that there are wide differences. Similar to how political pollsters survey for voting intentions, those leading business transformations should identify the various individuals and groups that are involved in the transformation and its changes. These stakeholders should then be analysed with consideration given to not just what their needs are, but also what they are not in need of – as I believe unnecessary change management can be bad change management.

 

Ultimately, the ideal scenario is one in which all stakeholders score all of the 7Cs positively, and to help achieve this there a variety of tools and approaches for use. These tools and the 7Cs framework were the foundations of my “Transformative Change” book, and the lynchpin for the various change management training courses I have had the privilege to design and deliver to a diverse range of industries and professions.

 

HR as Change Management Champion
Notably, it is the HR profession that I have most frequently found myself engaging with, suggesting that it is this function that often has the ownership of change management in their organisations. From an objective point of view, I see this positioning of change management with HR having both pros and cons. But certainly, for HR, the ownership of change management allows it an opportunity to be a true business partner supporting transformation projects by managing the people side of change alongside traditional project and programme plans.

 

So, when asking does change management have to change in a world of revolutionary change, HR is very much part of the discussion. But perhaps I should start answering the question by considering the 7Cs of Change. Do I still stand behind the framework and the tools, do I believe they are as relevant in today’s world when organisations are facing the challenges (and opportunities) of more and more revolutionary changes?

 

The answer is yes, very much so – perhaps even more so. But that’s not to say that all my beliefs behind the 7Cs framework are the same as they once were.

 

A case in point would be “change championing.” I used to put forward that whilst championing change was not an exclusive task of the senior leadership, I did insist that this stakeholder group were an essential one to drive transformations.

 

But today, one must consider the demands upon senior leaders in this world of ever more frequent revolutionary change. After all, we could be looking at the types of transformations that bring fundamental changes to the very being of the organisation – perhaps challenging the actions, behaviours and culture that a leader has grown with and been developed by.

 

When it comes to championing change, it is worth asking if the pace of change now means we must look at paying greater attention to the types of leadership attributes needed for the future and how they compare to the traditional leadership criteria of the past? Or, perhaps, new ambassadors must be sought for business transformations that do not come from the traditional leadership structure of a typical organisation?

For example, I am aware that Japan is particularly known for giving great attention to respecting its elders and their leadership in the workplace, but perhaps organisations should not overlook its younger demographic of employees when looking to set the direction of the organisation. Who knows what revolutionary ideas they may have that, whilst disruptive, could ultimately allow the organisation to embark on a more secure and successful future?

 

These are questions and thoughts that I must now factor as part of my thinking when it comes to the likes of change capacity and change championing. But it is not just change management professionals such as myself who need to ask these questions. HR also is well positioned to take ownership in asking such questions of their organisation, and then play a critical role in finding the answers.

 

By: Nimalan Nadesalingam, MBA

Author’s Bio:

Nimalan Nadesalingam is an associate director and senior consultant for change management at one of the world’s largest multinationals, and the founder of 7Cs of Change Foundation. Nimalan has delivered keynote speeches and training for delegates from numerous types of industries in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. His book, “Transformative Change,” was released in 2014. Nimalan, originally from Great Britain, is currently a resident in Germany.

(This article was first published at The HR Agenda magazine. Follow this link: http://bit.ly/2wygPHi.)

 

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