Change is a constant human requirement. An unending desire to topple routine is a fundamental fact of life. Nature provides us with really great examples of change. Caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies, rocks change in constitution, even the wind and tide changes! What we do not change, changes itself, what we change, changes us.
But in business, change costs a lot of money in most cases, affects processes, people and work ethics (sometimes negatively). Thus the businessman must undertake change where there are sensible reasons for believing that the benefits from such intended alterations to routine and the organisation's already established rhythm far exceeds the costs.
For starters the change sought MUST make the organisation more competitive, make business processes more effective ans it's incidence on staff be 'padded' so to speak, so that it is easily adopted by the workforce. Since people are an organisation's greatest assets, the change process must be tailored specifically with the workforce in mind and should answer three basic questions
1. Are the staffs convinced this changes is necessary?
Usually the staff do not think the change necessary. This is a basic human reaction to something new, people feel more comfortable with routine and habits are very difficult to break. Selling the idea to your staff long before the change takes effect is a way to help them convince themselves about the necessity of the change. Honest open discussions with the workforce, also serves to allay their fears and concerns.
2. Will staffs support this change?
Recent studies have shown that the success rate of transformational change is only about 40%. That is 6 out of 10 times, such change would fail to accomplish the desired result, leaving a bitter after-taste in the mouths of senior executives who find it hard to get consolation for the time and monetary expenditure that went into the change process. Resistance to change is often a boulder in the way of progress. The staff needs to be convinced that it is in HIS best interest to support this change. For example he needs assurance that you are not outsourcing his job (if you really are thinking of outsourcing his job, you must be careful about communicating clearly and in a timely fashion.
3. Do we REALLY need change?
This is the most important question of all. BEFORE ever asking the previous two questions, this question must be satisfactorily answered with quantitative as well as qualitative reasons proffered for the desired change.
The first two questions have focused on the employee, this last questions focuses on management. Is the desire to change based on cold facts and figures or on emotions?
To answer the question: is the change really necessary, consider a very unique creature the octopus. This really amazing sea creature can flatten its body to hide in rock crevices under water, it is also adept at mimicry, even mimicking a swaying plant under water. It can jest off in the water at really top speed while shooting an ink jet to cover its escape. In short the octopus knows when change is REALLY needed.
What then is the lesson for a business manager?
It is this: Change must be actively undertaken when existing realities of the business environment, makes your current state dangerous your business survival.
Every businessman is like the octopus -he want to live alone and is fiercely territorial- in their not wanting to share the market with any competitors. How does this fact affect our discourse on change?
This is how: Change must be actively undertaken when your current business process is not helping you retain your customer or when a competitor is gradually elbowing you out of the market.
Remember, change isn't a fun exercise so expect resistance, for as people are wont to say, if it ain't broke, why fix it?
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