Okay – so I’m just showing off my French! But I though I might talk about “Change”today. With the ever growing financial crisis many companies are looking at the way they carry out their business to evaluate whether they need to change.
Over the last two or three decades there have many companies who have studied the fluctuating market environment and have tried to make fundamental changes in the way in which they conduct their business. Some have spectacular success like British Airways who remade their whole image in the 80’s and were known as the “world’s best airline” and General Motors, who took on a new CEO and Ford and creating a new and dynamic company.
But for every one that succeeding in changing to meet market demands there were many others who fell by the wayside; and even those quoted have lost the market position that they once held. So it seems that the French were right and the more things change the more they stay the same.
Even when companies are dedicated to changing their work practices; even when they know that it is vital for their very survival, there is a reluctance to implement that change. So as the global economy goes into freefall and banks are under pressure, I wonder how many Australian companies are considering what changes may be necessary to keep them viable in the uncertain future that faces us.
An article in the “Business Week” entitled The Living Company states that :
“The average life expectancy of a multinational corporation-Fortune 500 or its equivalent-is between 40 and 50 years. This figure is based on most surveys of corporate births and deaths. A full one-third of the companies listed in the 1970 Fortune 500, for instance, had vanished by 1983-acquired, merged, or broken to pieces. Human beings have learned to survive, on average, for 75 years or more, but there are very few companies that are that old and flourishing.”
The article is well worth a read; but I wanted to focus on being able to institute change when the need for change has been identified. The problem is not in the need for change, it is not in the realisation that change must be undertaken to stay competitive; it is the problem that the actual implementation of the change is misunderstood.
One of my favourite writers on leadership and change is Professor John Kotter. In October 2001, Business Week magazine rated him the “Number 1 “leadership guru” in America based on a survey they conducted of 504 enterprises.” His latest work A Sense of Urgency was published in 2008.
Kotter has identified eight steps which any company needs to undertake to enable a positive outcome to any plan for change, and they can be studied in this article “Leading Change” It is his first step towards transformation that interests me, and that is “Establishing a Sense of Urgency”
One of Trischel’s most popular Self-Development Workshops is “Positive Thinking for Success” which is about empowering people to change; so the problems of implementing change within one person is quite familiar to us. When I started with our Leadership Programmes it became apparent that most of the information wanted by senior executives was on motivation and implementation of change – and the thought of implementation of change in companies that employ thousands of that ‘one person’ took on an awesome aspect. And yet, surely the principles must be the same.
In a Self-Development course we look at the following criteria which are necessary for change to occur:
First – we address the reason for change. This is often easy to identify. We can all see what is wrong and we suffer from the consequences of that and they can be measurable. But what is absolutely necessary is recognition of the need for a change, coupled with the determination to make it happen. This is not so easy; often we will pay lip service to the reason without developing the sense of urgency which fuels our determination.
Without this, all the other steps in our programme are not worth the paper they are written on. You can develop your visualisation of how things will be for you once you have changed; you can work on powerful affirmations that will ensure that changes to thinking patterns can occur and you can create a personal plan on paper. But without the determination developed from a real sense of urgent need, that is where it will stay – on paper.
Sometimes we are more scared of change itself than we are of the consequences of not changing. There can be a sense that all we need to do is work harder and smarter, not differently. The situation that we find ourselves in with all its problems is at least known territory; if we start to change we may find ourselves in unchartered waters and that can be terrifying.
There is a thought (usually found in government departments I’m afraid) that people themselves are not resistant to change, all it needs is to be explained properly. And yet what is the outcome of the many and varied government campaigns to instigate changes in people’s personal choices? Despite all the warnings and legislation to make smoking a despised and difficult task, teenagers still take up smoking. Regardless of the multitudes of campaigns against drink driving – the numbers rise and the outcomes are often horrific.
It goes back to the lesson I learned while conducting the Positive Thinking Programmes in a number of organisations. Without the willingness to change which comes from a deep understanding of the consequences of not changing, and not being willing to risk that; change will never occur. A sense of urgency only comes out of a sense of desperation.
If we look at change within the corporation we often see that there are two distinct reactions to the suggestion of change. There will be those who accept it as a challenge and an opportunity: while others will view it as an unwelcome and unnecessary disruption.
So for productive changes to be implemented into a company in these uncertain times there must be first a recognition by everyone within the company of the absolute need for the change to occur. And from that must come a desperate… fear, almost, of what the outcome would be if no change was implemented. Only with this knowledge will the sense of urgency that Kotter talks about be generated; and without it, even with the best intentioned plan, change will never really occur.
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. – Andy Warhol
If you have identified a need to change your company to meet the challenges ahead, remember that every person in the company must have a stake in the urgency of the change for it to succeed – and no, that is not easy to achieve – first you need open communication and listening skills and it’s right there that we can help.
“donc réalisons le changement” or “let’s make change a reality”
Michele @ Trischel