Is your organisation ready, willing and able to change?

Every day we hear how we are living in an increasingly interconnected and digitally disrupted world.   These connections create complexity and ambiguity, but they also offer amazing opportunities and challenges for organisations.

From my perspective, it’s incredibly exciting.  But to thrive through change, organisations need to be match fit to change.

As Gary Hamel, notes: “The world is becoming more turbulent faster than most organisations are becoming more resilient.”

This means organisations need to be ready, willing and able:

Ready to change – the organisation knows where it wants to get to, and has a well-constructed plan for execution, with a logically and thoughtfully sequenced change roadmap.

There are always unknowns when kicking off a transformation, so you can’t plan for everything.  You can however, ensure that your organisation is ready to be flexible and adaptive as it goes through the change.  This way it can take advantage of opportunities, and respond swiftly to issues as they arise.

Willing to change – the organisation has effective leadership support and the roles and responsibilities of the change sponsor, project team and leaders are clear, and they are willing to step up and lead the change. This is imperative.

A transformation will not succeed if the alignment between the strategic intent and the leaders’ actions is absent.  It will also struggle if accountabilities are unclear.

Able to change – the organisation has the capacity and capability to execute the change and is able to invest the resources to ensure that impacted stakeholders are well prepared for the change.

The organisation needs to devote both financial and people resources to ensuring that those impacted by the change are not only able to cope with it, but they know what is expected of them and have the behavioural and technical skills to thrive through it.

However in many cases, organisations embark on transformation and change programs with one or a number of those elements missing.

For example:

There’s often no assessment of the organisation’s capacity to absorb the change, nor an understanding of the capability of impacted stakeholders to adopt the change.   Instead, there are multiple change programs occurring at the same time, often impacting the same group of people.

This creates confusion, particularly when the implementation efforts are disconnected from each other.  All the end user sees is a barrage of changes coming down the pipeline, but little information as to how the changes connect back to the organisation’s strategic agenda, and what it means for them holistically.

To be change ready, willing and able, the organisation needs to focus efforts on:

Planning – mapping out both where the organisation wants to get to, and how they plan to get there. This is not about creating an inflexible plan, but it is about having a strong sense of direction, and clarity on the way ahead

Leadership – ensuring leadership, at all hierarchical levels, are equipped and motivated to lead and carry out their role. This is essential as the change needs to be driven by the leaders, and they need to have the confidence and accountability to take this on

Learning – providing the capability uplift that is required to both execute the transformation and change (within the designated delivery or project team), and to sustain the changes once they have been made (ie with end users)

This might sound overly simplified, but experience has shown that it is often the simple things that make a real difference to how a change is experienced.

As a starting point, if your organisation is going through a change, there are some fundamental questions you can ask to find out how ready, willing and able your organisation is.

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