The context of change: factors leaders should consider
1. Other changes occurring within the business
The world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It also moves incredibly fast, as businesses have had to learn in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that it’s likely there will be multiple changes occurring within any given organisation at a time. One participant in our research even reported 38 changes occurring simultaneously. To coordinate so many complex and intersecting initiatives, organisations should assign one person or a team to managing change throughout the business.
As a leader, when planning and actioning change, set time aside to map out other change initiatives occurring at the same time. Consider where they might overlap or contradict each other and anticipate what challenges might arise as a consequence.
2. The culture of the organisation you’re operating within
The role of culture in organisational change is all too often neglected. In fact, it’s a core component which should be considered to boost chances of success: organisational change can’t happen without impacting culture.5, 6 Two factors most often overlooked are cultural benchmarking and loss of cultural icons:
- Cultural benchmarking is the set of habits in an organisation which dictate ‘how things are done around here’. To avoid alienating employees, as much as possible leaders should make sure that change is actioned in line with the existing culture and values.
- Cultural icons are people who embody what your organisation is about. Losing these people can make undergoing change without losing who you are as an organisation a lot trickier. Leaders should engage these key cultural icons around the change, get them onboard, and get them to help make the change a success.
3. The change momentum
Change comes in all shapes and sizes, varying in both pace and scale, which together make up an initiative’s ‘change momentum’. Leaders should aim to classify where their change initiative lies in terms of momentum, and regularly reassess this throughout the project. The type of change momentum will dictate the challenges leaders may face. Indeed, each type of change has different watch outs:
- For slow, large-scale changes, leaders should watch out for loss of engagement. This can be tackled with an effective communication strategy. By providing regular updates, people feel like they are being kept in the loop. Another issue with this type of change can be siloed working. To avoid this, leaders should refocus on the shared goals of the change and see the opportunities for collaboration which are being missed.
- For fast, large-scale change, leaders can’t await absolute certainty to make every decision. To avoid delaying change processes, leaders should consider 80% certainty to be enough to make a decision on a given topic.7 Encouraging this rule will help leaders to make decisions when it matters. When facing fast change, leaders should also take extra care with their customers by providing extra support to smooth over any kinks created by the change.