TODAY is not like yesterday, and tomorrow will be different from today. Continuing today’s strategy is risky; so is turning to a new strategy. These observations tell us that the society that we live in is constantly changing, and businesses, as subsets of this broader society are not spared from this change.
At some point, you have undoubtedly found yourself following a procedure that didn’t seem to make sense, or that made sense but was hideously inefficient.
Arguably so, contexts evolve, and procedures gradually drift out of sync with the daily reality.
Sadly, most people have no formal process for updating their procedures to account for this drift.
This column is for you — whether you’re considering a small change to one or two processes, or a system wide change to any circumstance.
You might know that the change needs to happen, but you don’t really know how to go about delivering it.
Where do you start?
Whom do you involve?
How do you see it through to the end?
It’s a fact — change is occurring at an accelerating rate; change cannot be allowed to just happen — it needs to be managed.
Change management is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organisations from a current state to a desired future state.
In this universe, change is traced back to evolution where an organism, which failed to adapt to the changes in the environment, became extinct.
Organisations should predict any form of change and quickly adapt so as to stay competitive because as much as only the early adapting species survive evolution so do early adapting business and organisations.
Change is a response and this may be a response to stimulus such as demand, customer, environmental, stakeholder, legislature or technology.
Resistance to change
Even organisations that have embraced the notion of continuous quality improvement often develop a surprising amount of resistance to change.
That’s natural; once people get used to something, they tend to resist change.
Most people have naturally unchanging behaviour because people are not willing to re-orient themselves psychologically.
Change begins with the end in mind, but if the end does not look good, an individual may perceive the change process as bad and not invest any effort in it.
To change an entrenched process, there must be dissatisfaction with the current process, a management “champion” and a set of clearly defined problems.
The wise old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” neatly encapsulates important wisdom about the irresistible desire to tamper with things that work just fine and about the natural human resistance to change.
You’ll generally find many people who are happy to complain about an inefficient process, but few who can gather the enthusiasm to change it unless the process is well and truly broken.
If something basically works, even if it’s clearly inefficient, you’ll have a hard time persuading anyone to replace it with a new and unproven alternative.
Thus, the first step in any process change is to confirm, as objectively as possible, that change is really what the organisation requires.
Unlimited opportunities for innovation
Many people fail to see change as opportunity.
They ignore or resist changes until it is too late. Their strategies, structures, systems, and organisational culture grow increasingly obsolete and dysfunctional.
More ideas are being worked on; the time lag between new ideas and their successful implementation is decreasing rapidly; and the time between introduction and peak production is shortening considerably.
Scientists today are working on a startling range of new technologies that will revolutionise products and production processes. The challenge in each case is not only technical but also commercial — to develop affordable versions of these products.
In Zimbabwe, I know of companies which are already harnessing the power of virtual reality; the combination of technologies that allows users to experience three-dimensional, computer generated environments through sound, sight, and touch.
If you as an organisation intend on introducing a new product onto the market, the public needs to be assured of safety — a quick example of the ethanol blended fuel E10 fuel comes to mind.
I feel that more work needs to be done in building confidence within the market.
When you plan carefully and build the proper foundation, implementing change can be much easier, and you’ll improve the chances of success.
If you’re too impatient, and if you expect too many results too soon, your plans for change are more likely to fail.
My advice to you is — Create a sense of urgency, recruit powerful change leaders, build a vision and effectively communicate it, remove obstacles, create quick wins, and build on your momentum.
If you do these things, you can help make the change part of your organisational culture.
That’s when you can declare a true victory; then sit back and enjoy the change that you envisioned so long ago.
- Shelter Hamandishe-Chieza is a management consultant. She holds over a decade of management experience. She is completing a Management of Business Administration degree with a reputable local university. For feedback please e-mail email@example.com.