Did an audible groan involuntarily escape your lips when you read the title of this piece, or when you hear it over the Tannoy at a train station or worse, has it become your organisation’s mantra? As a group HR director of a global company, my head was at times a fog with new initiatives, business disruptions, and globalisation.
Even before Brexit it felt like everything was moving faster; we needed to react quicker, even though we were not always sure what was ahead. There’s an acronym for this: VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
We live in the most volatile, uncertain times. Change is the norm, not unique. It’s not going to stop now; it didn’t in the past and will not in the future. Yet we often feel less prepared for the onslaught than we ever have. And whether you’re a leader of change or an employee being asked to change, the psychological process is the same. Change is about people, at all levels.
Leaving politicians aside, CEOs and CFOs that embrace this concept are adapting more successfully to change and improving the “hard” benefit of their EBITDA. They understand that getting this right is far more powerful than the traditional process-driven change management approach.
This was identified way back in 2008 in a study at IBM, Making Change Work. The study interviewed 1,500 leaders and managers and when asked: ‘What makes change successful?’ the top answers all focused around the so-called “soft factors”: leadership sponsorship (92%), employee involvement (72%), honest and timely communication (70%) and cultures that motivate and promote change (65%).
And yet its results also reveal that changing attitudes and mindsets is the most challenging part of implementing change.
A recent 2015 CIPD study, Landing Transformational Change, explores four case studies of large-scale transformational change at BBC Worldwide, HMRC, Zurich UK Life and News UK. They discovered three common themes make change happen effectively with energy and momentum. Design – the pre-work leaders do to ensure they are on board with the change message. Technique – the use of storytelling, metaphors and play to engage everyone in change. And management – the move from authoritarian control styles to relationship management and open dialogue.
Darren Childs, CEO of the media company UKTV, applied this philosophy and landed two striking results: a healthy 9% EBIDTA growth in 2014 and a Best Companies to Work For prize in 2013.
The message is clear: to achieve your EBITDA targets in this volatile environment, it’s essential to focus on the people side of managing change:
Emotions – Change triggers powerful emotional responses, which can cause anxiety. Yet creating a change-ready mindset enables people to problem solve, buying into change rather than emotional coping and bailing out.
Behaviours – We are all change experts and have successfully changed in the past. Remind yourselves what you did to make change happen and consider how you can best use these behaviours to do it again.
Inspire – Share and listen to the change story dialogues to keep the momentum going.
Team – Work together: collaboratively and collectively is what makes it happen.
Determined – Build resilience to keep going by encouraging exploration and experimentation. Understanding and learning from mistakes enables you to learn and grow.
Accomplishments – Recognising and sharing even the smallest accomplishments maintains an appetitive for change and enhances the wellbeing required to make change happen successfully.
Is any of this so-called soft stuff easy? No. Can you make it happen? Resoundingly - yes.
Organisations that get their people ready, willing and able for change; organisations that support their employees’ efforts to keep going; organisations determined to make change happen and enable everyone to take ownership of and pride in delivering change… These organisations will achieve and even surpass their EBITDA targets.
Even in turbulent post Brexit times.
Jackie McGee is co-founder of change consultancy JAMomentum