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Change as a journey

There’s a great video from 1997 worth revisiting (here) where Steve Jobs was launching Apple’s ‘Think different’ marketing campaign. Paraphrasing a bit, he talks about the combination of ‘people with passion’ and ‘having an unwavering belief in one’s self to affect change in the world’ as being the catalyst. Steve also talks about how markets had completely changed from a decade ago and that companies now have a different role to play (and technology companies in particular; it was an Apple marketing campaign kick-off after all!).

Now move forward two and a bit decades to today, 2020. Every newspaper and magazine you open has sagely advice about how to deal with digital strategy, or the latest productivity-enhancing app or cloud services your company simply can’t live without… Whilst the technology has certainly evolved, Mr Jobs’ words of markets completely changing still ring true. Change is the constant nowadays.

It’s also true that technology companies, be they external vendors or internal IT departments, now have a different role to play. Failing to comprehend the paradigm shift that is occurring is a clear path to obsolescence, as an IT shop that is not working hand-in-hand with the business will fade over time into obscurity providing products/services no one wants. Similarly, customer behaviour and preference is changing in radical ways at an escalating pace. Any business that fails to understand this will likewise become obsolete.

So, what to do? Here’s some advice on where to start on the change journey:

  • Establish urgency
    Employees may not take the need for change seriously, or your company may simply be complacent to rest on its laurels (after all, why fix if its not broken?). You need to reach out and educate your company about the urgent need for change and the consequences of doing nothing. Bring in subject matter experts for advice if required to get things moving. Sponsorship from the highest level is critical at this stage to add credibility that this is serious.

  • Pull together your A-team
    Assemble a cross-functional group of people who support the need for change and have enough clout to make change happen. If you are able, try to include some of your suppliers, channel partners and clients in the mix; they are stakeholders in your business model after all and their input is extremely relevant and valuable.

  • Develop a Vision, Goals and a Strategy
    You have added the topic of change to your agenda and your core team are assembled, now what? The next step is to present a vision of what the company will look like after the change, the required goals to achieve the vision, and the strategies that will move things towards the ideal state. Expressing the vision will get employee buy-in, so employee participation in articulating the vision is critical. Reach out far and wide.

  • Communicate, Communicate and then Communicate (some more!)
    Broadcast out your new vision, goals and strategies to all relevant employees to develop engagement. Your A-team’ should also be starting to model the behaviour expected of others.

  • Empower employees to take action
    Remove barriers that impede change and publicly reward employees acting in accord with the vision. Risk taking should be encouraged.

  • Generate short-term wins
    Break up the change into smaller steps to create a perception of progress and ensure you have ample opportunities to reward change participants for success. This progress should be communicated widely so it is recognised that change is indeed happening in the company.

  • Consolidate and produce more change
    Use the credibility that comes with the short-term “wins” to alter whatever in the company doesn’t fit the vision. Recruiting and promoting those who can advance the change process (or perhaps even help lead it) is vital in continuing progress. Leverage the expertise of outsiders where required.

  • Anchor the change effort within the company culture
    Emphasising the benefits of the change effort, and linking it to organisational success, is one way to help anchor the new approach. The idea is to have new practises replace the old culture. (This final step in the transformation process will take time).

I trust the above provides inspiration for your change efforts.