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No change is an island

Insight

13 April 2018

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No change is an island

Change doesn’t happen in isolation.

Although it would make all our lives a little more straightforward, the reality is that organisational change is not a series of independent events where you complete one change programme before moving on to the next. It’s now the new normal for multiple organisational changes to be occurring at the same time. At a roundtable we hosted last year, one of the participants reported to have a whopping 38 changes currently on the go in their business!

Our research and insight suggests that the challenge of juggling multiple changes at once is probably only going to increase in the future. It’s a complicated, messy, and sometimes exhausting world to operate in. That’s why organisations need leaders who can deal with complexity and coordinate with other people who are leading the multitude of other changes. Specifically, leaders must be skilled at managing simultaneous change initiatives as if they were one. Without this skill, there’s a risk of the changes contradicting and derailing each other.

It’s not an easy task, so here are three top tips for successfully managing multiple, simultaneous changes:

 

  1. Think system not project

At the start of any change process, ensure that you begin the planning phase by mapping out what other changes are currently going on in the organisation (and any that are coming up) to allow you to anticipate potential conflicts or contradictions.

 

  1. Appoint a conductor

Sometimes it’s useful to have one person or team solely dedicated to managing change throughout the business. Think of them like a musical conductor, managing different melodies which are all distinct and independent, and yet in harmony and intertwined with the wider performance. It’s not enough to be aware of other changes in the business, they need to be cleverly orchestrated so that all activity is synchronised.

 

  1. Paint the big picture

With multiple changes going on, people can feel confused and unsure about how everything fits together. Work out what the big picture looks like and communicate to people frequently about how the pieces of the jigsaw fit together. Helping people understand the multitude of changes is the first step in getting them engaged with them.

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