It’s no secret that business and the way that companies operate has changed in the last two decades. As an article in the Harvard Business Review puts it: “Globalization, new technologies, and greater transparency have combined to upend the business environment.”
For some companies, these changes have been fatal. They have been fatal because these companies never managed to adapt to the new business environment and continued to apply a traditional strategy.
There is much more uncertainty in today’s business world and this poses questions. There is one question in particular from the HBR article cited above that resonates:
When change is so rapid, how can a one-year—or, worse, five-year—planning cycle stay relevant?
This is still a big question. It’s the type of question that a whole team in a company sit in a room mulling over and finding the answer to ensure the success of the business in the future.
So why can no one find a solid, strategic answer?
It’s an overstatement to say that no one can find the answer as plenty of businesses are successfully adapting their strategy to meet the evolved business environment.
Consider this though, the CIPD say that research they’ve done “finds that less than 60% of re-organisations met their stated objectives which are usually bottom line improvement.”
Even when planning and re-organising the business, companies are still failing to find a solution to rapid change and the evolving business environment.
It comes down to a number of factors:
- Lack of effective leadership
- Lack of effective project management
- Poor Communication
- Opposition to change from employees
Lack of Effective Leadership
Lets think about the top-down approach. To effectively change business strategy and culture to fit the rapidly changing business environment, agreements have to be made at the top. Once everyone has agreed on a strategy, this can be filtered down to everyone else within the company.
Anyone considered a ‘leader’ within the company has to fully understand the changes taking place, endorse the change and be able to reasonably and clearly explain to others how it will effect their day-to-day working life (preferably for the better).
A leader in the company might be defined as the CEO/MD, Senior Management and Department Heads through to Project Managers and senior members of the team who have earned respect from peers and can have an impact in change.
Once everyone in a leadership role is on board with the change, they can be shown how it will affect their roles in the company and the roles of their teams. When done properly with everyone on-board, leadership can be powerful in change management.
Lack of Effective Project Management
This stems partially from lack of effective leadership and from lack of a suitable and realistic plan. Anyone involved in the change management and adapting the company’s strategy to meet the new business environment needs to be aligned with company policies, culture and technology.
New systems and technology can be a particular weakness in project management as without training and careful implementations of new systems, there can be resistance from employees who will be using the new systems on a day-to-day basis.
Communication is always a killer. As mentioned, trying to adapt the company to align with new business strategies is a huge undertaking and communication is the pinnacle of success.
You can’t expect to take on such a big change without proper communication company-wide. Not only does the CEO need to know what’s going on, everyone needs to know what’s going on. You can’t on-board an entire new business strategy without everyone being in agreement.
Communication might start in the boardroom but it has to filter down to individual employees so they can fully understand their role in the change and adaptation. To an extent, this comes back to making sure leadership and project management is as good as it can be and then you can rely on leaders explaining and communicating with their teams.
Communication in a change this big has to be more than a few emails. Consider the different options for quick communication amongst the team, preferably something that allows feedback and individual employees to have a voice.
Opposition to Change From Employees
Employees are arguably the most important assets of any business, without them, how can the business run?
If enough people are willing to oppose and even leave the company over change, the change won’t happen. That doesn't mean things should stay as they are, it means a re-think is needed in order to get everyone on-board and a new way of adapting to changing business pressures is needed.
In 2012, after years of planning, the BBC moved a huge part of their organisation to Manchester. It was a big move to make and it meant uprooting hundreds of employees from their homes in London to relocate to Manchester. That’s not an easy thing to do and if the 854 BBC staff that made the move had said no, the BBC would have been in a very risky position. As it was, they moved with as little loss of staff as possible and they now operate from Manchester.
A change this big took not only years of planning but there would have needed to be constant on-going communication and very clear plans as to how the move would effect people’s jobs and lives. The benefits were clearly highlighted and a relocation package (costing the BBC £24 million) was put into place.
You might not be moving your entire workforce to a new location but what you might be planning could still be perceived as big and that’s why the plans should be as open as possible with as much communication as possible and with highlighted benefits in place. If you can show the reasons for the change and how it benefits the workforce, they are less likely to oppose the changes.
How to Adapt To The New Business Environment
Whilst there’s still much more to it, some of the things a business has to consider when adapting and changing strategy is:
- Leadership – Leaders within the business need to fully understand the changes and the benefits and how it will affect their workforce
- Project Management – To change a business strategy is a big thing, but it might be the best thing you ever do – plan, plan and a bit more planning combined with clear communication and alignment across departments and IT.
- Communication – Everyone should be in the know about what’s going on and how it effects them and their job role.
- Employees – If employees oppose the change, find out why and how the business might be able to sweeten the deal. You might find it is simply a lack of explanation and communication that has caused the opposition.
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