- Digital Transformation,
- Change Management,
– 22 May, 2020
Communication Is Everything, But It’s Not All There Is
As we prepare to exit lock down and return to ‘the new normal’, it’s important to recognize that more change is coming. To thrive – or even just survive – post COVID-19, organisations will need to adjust their business models & drive transformational change at pace.
As leaders start preparing their workforce for the journey ahead, they must recognise that while there’s a strong catalyst for change, their people are tired and there’s little desire for that which is novel; we seek stability in uncertain times.
This provides an additional challenge to those leading change, not least because they too are fatigued. With little – if any – respite, leaders will embark on what will later become their ‘tour de force’, if they succeed.
To combat resistance, remember that:
1. Change management is crucial for organizational transformation.
Transformation is tricky, and it often requires a shift in organizational culture to realise the benefits of strategic, structural, procedural, or technological change. It’s difficult for leaders to affect culture and coordinate high stakes initiatives at the best of times, and much harder now; ‘management by walking around’ is no longer an option and those impacted are struggling to adapt to ‘the new normal’. Humans are complex, and as John Kotter said, “Transformation is a process, not an event”. It’s foolhardy to set sail without a map and compass; so too, is navigating change without deploying a model or framework.
Leaders can curb resistance and improve productivity by taking actions to limit uncertainty and employee dissatisfaction; allowing employees to carry on delivering as their work continues to change. This ensures customers – internal or external – receive continuity of service so the organisation can continue performing, which is crucial for the survival and success of a company today.
2. Change management is much more than communication.
“To lead well, speak well”. Communication skills are important, and most of the leaders we know today are good speakers. In distributed workplaces – which we’re now finding ourselves in – the written word is key. Communication is everything, but it’s not all there is. You can’t manage change without effective communication, but you won’t reach your destination by ‘managing change’ with this alone.
A focus on leadership and adoption is required when driving change, and more so in times of uncertainty. While some consider ‘communication and training’ to be the heart of change management, most recognise that an informed and capable ship’s crew is nothing unless their captain inspires them to “yearn for the vast and endless sea”; after all, they need to adopt new ways of working for the change to be sustained, and there’s always more change over the horizon. Often the captain and key sponsors (i.e. change leaders) need coaching and ongoing support to foster the communication and influencing skills they need to do this, and guidance on evolving the organisation’s culture to enable and support the change. The importance of workforce transition and business readiness is at times overlooked, and so too is resistance management; it’s no surprise change initiatives fail when companies don’t arm themselves to win.
3. A consistent and centralized approach is key to managing change effectively.
Effective change management requires effort, investment, and the wisdom to employ the right skills and the right tactics, at the right time. Doing so helps an organisation retain top talent, improve productivity, and ensure a smoother journey from the ‘as-is’ to the ‘to-be’ state. Most organisations are in a constant state of change, and companies that successfully adopt internal transformation have a central change management function; either permanently, or by deploying a ‘Change Management as a Service’ (CMaaS) model.
This central function supports the organisation by establishing a methodology and creating best practices, and by reducing the ‘change burden’ on leaders and their people. For the organisation, this is demonstrated through joined-up messages that align to a single, unified, and purposeful vision. For leaders, this means leveraging sophisticated structures of support – which let them focus on leading change from the front – while capacity and capability is supplemented from behind. And for the people? By minimizing competing priorities and implementation inefficiencies, through ‘economies of scale’ (i.e. ensuring change activities across the organisation are tailored and bundled by the impacted stakeholder groups). This cohesive approach saves the company time and money, while providing greater expertise and value; savvy companies capitalise on change specialists that support multiple initiatives in parallel and complement, rather than installing change generalists to tackle single initiatives in isolation.
So, as leaders start setting sail, we know it’s never been harder for them to navigate change. Alas, they must, and it will be career-defining when they do. That said, they don’t need to do it alone, nor should they. Given the complex nature of change, it pays to have all hands-on deck. A team of change specialists – at your service – will keep employees aligned and engaged with new ways of working; helping you ensure a smoother transition as you chase the horizon.
Management Consultant & CSR Lead Analah is Chaucer’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Lead; passionate about improving lives, in and outside of Chaucer. With 10+ years’ experience working as a Change Management Consultant, she has helped high profile clients navigate complex behavioural and cultural change, focusing on innovation and digital transformation these past few years.