Is Change a necessity?

goldfish jumping out of the water

Everyone talks about Change.  But is it really a necessity?  Well, a good statistic to keep in mind: 88% of Fortune 500 companies in 1955 disappeared from the list in 2014.  That means only 12% of these top 500 companies managed to go through the past 50 years (mostly) unscathed.  Do you know where your company will be in 50 years?

If you want to make enemies, try to change something

When I try to change something within my organization, the first answer I get is usually, no.  If I’m lucky, I might hear an uncommitted, sure.  Which doesn’t bring me much further, and always leaves me very frustrated.  Why can’t others be excited and share my vision?  Why are they so much against change?  Then, of course, I take a look at myself in the mirror: how many times have I said no to a colleague’s idea to change something?  Or worse, how many times have I replied with an uncommitted, sure?

As 2015 is coming to a close, I reflect back on Marty’s Back to the Future year: I spent a lot of days listening to inspiring presentations and networking with parts professionals, pricing experts, field service directors, service leaders, and chief digital officers.  Each event I spent throughout the year with these groups of people brought out its own set of challenges to overcome and solutions to strive for.  However, there was one common theme: CHANGE!

The Manufacturing Industry is at an exciting time: globalization means that not only new customers are within reach but new pools of talents are available; technological developments mean that front lines and back offices might be physically disconnected but are always virtually connected; Intelligence (business, customer, market…) is readily available and waiting to be captured and turned into value-added and personalized products and services.  The future looks bright, but that is true both of yours and your competitors’.  And only the fittest will survive.  Time to get your membership to Darwin’s Gym of Change Management.

Whether you’re a pricing expert trying to get Sales and Marketing onboard the Value Based Pricing implementation, or a Service Leader trying to convince the Board that Aftersales should not be an Afterthought (“look at the profit margins, Boss!”), Change Management is a necessity.  But in our day and age of globalization and digital channels, where information travels at the speed of light (or so it seems), change needs to happen throughout the organization, from headquarters to local branches, from top management to new recruits.  A hard fought one-year-in-the-making business strategy can be instantly killed by a hap hazardous tweet or LinkedIn post by an uninformed customer service rep.

How can an organization change?

There is no right or easy way to change.  And many factors may influence an organization’s ability to execute change management: size (geographically and/or number of employees), company culture, open-mindedness (or lack thereof) of top management, and many others …  And there are, of course, many different definitions of what Change Management actually is.  But there is one which I think is spot on to how it should be conducted, from

Minimizing resistance to organizational change through involvement of key players and stakeholders.

Sometimes, you get ideas about changing a process or strategy or anything, and you get so excited that you want to shout it out from a rooftop.  So you gather a meeting with all your colleagues and superiors and anyone that will be affected by the change, to present it.  And the result is (very) rarely effective.  First, some (or many) will actually not attend the meeting, either because you did not explain enough in the meeting invite, or you explained too much and they are not interested.  And in the actual meeting, you will be confronted by a group of people eager to get back to their daily jobs, and will hear a lot of no’s or sure.  And you won’t know where to turn to for support.

It’s very easy for a group of people to say no and turn down an idea.  But it’s much harder for an individual in a one-on-one to be as confrontational and rigid.  It’s also easy for you to map out, within your organization or department, who are the ones that are respected, that others listen or look up to, and the ones that are more open to change or new ideas.  These are the ones you should go to first, present your case and get them onboard so that, when you do have that group meeting, you have allies implanted in there.  Time for you to develop your lobbying skills!

Change Management of course requires a lot more than that.  It requires a good reason or case to change in the first place, it requires discipline and accountability from yourself to ensure it is executed and some metrics are in place, but I believe the most important aspect is who you get on your side to support you in the beginning.  Because that will play a key part in determining the acceptance of others.  What do you think?  Please share your views on Change Management, and what you think is the key to execute it.

Thomas Igou, Content Director, Copperberg