Managing Change for Every Type of Organization

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International   November 2013

Takeaways: An overview of managing change. What small organizations can do to leverage related skills. Three tips for applying some best practices for any size organization.\

How has your business changed recently, or how do you expect it to change in the near future? All businesses, large and small eventually undergo a major change and this is much more common and sometimes seemingly constant. They are also often undergoing small changes on a regular basis. Employee turnover, rapid adjustments in local market conditions, disasters, new market players disrupting the playing field and shifts in leadership are all common causes of organizations undergoing change.

Managing any organization has always involved managing change, large or tiny, whether it is a manufacturing or professional services enterprise, a non-profit, a school or a government entity. What has occurred over the past 50 years, particularly influenced by the continually increasing sharing of all types of information, is not necessarily that things are changing more or faster. It is really that we are able to predict and create or control change more effectively. We now have more timely information within our reach.

Paradigm Shift in management techniques

This paradigm shift has produced new techniques in management which are now generally referred to as Change Management. A number of individuals, mostly executives at large companies, are credited with leading the development of these techniques. They in turn, have generously credited various other people, employees, consultants and academics, who have greatly contributed to those development efforts. Significantly, those techniques are being widely shared as the thought leaders in management write books and give speeches, and consultants take those “best practices” to their clients.

Perhaps the most common issue I encounter is that small businesses, non-profits and even medium-size companies feel it is beyond them to even consider learning about and using these techniques. I also find that some very forward-thinking small enterprises, eagerly adopt many of these techniques and their level of success is exponentially greater than that of the ones that say “we are too small for that”.

What can an organization of any size do to acquire some of that knowledge or expertise and effectively apply it in their organization? A great first step is to accept that managing change must become a proactive behavior in leading an organization or a team of people. Learning to think about the organization in the context of the whole environment in which it exists is the next most valuable step a manager can take. This is part of what is called Systems or Strategic Thinking.

Additionally, following are some key concepts that, again, any organization, can use to help manage change more effectively:

  • Continually scan the FUTURE environment of your organization by considering how each of your stakeholders will be affecting the organization at a defined point in time in the future. Document what you come up with when discussing this with your colleagues and use the results to define the changes you feel will be needed. Be sure to also document the outcomes that you desire from those changes and make sure you have agreement among those of you responsible for implementing the change.
  • Create a clear plan for the change. Think of it as a discreet project but one that will affect other parties. Then list the parties that will be affected and decide how you will inform or involve them in making sure the change occurs and sticks. Also have a plan for how you will coach your direct reports about how they can assist in making the change happen.
  • Make sure you link your desired outcomes to measures that will help you track your progress toward those outcomes and document your quick successes, as these will help to maintain excitement about the change and its positive effects.

Essentially, stay focused on the fact that you will be moving from your current state to a future state. You need to manage the transition between the two and if you don’t make sure the people affected by the change are involved from the beginning and coached through the process, you are not likely to create a successful, lasting change and achieve the outcomes you desire.

Understanding Change as a Game We Play

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 

 Takeaways:  Change is one of many games we humans play.  Games have similar characteristics, including purpose, rules, time boundaries, spatial parameters, roles, and prizes.

Leadingat the Edge of ChaosIn his book, Leading at the Edge of Chaos: How to Create the Nimble Organization, Daryl R. Connor describes change management as yet one of many games humans play. All our games, he says, have certain characteristics in common:

  •  Purpose – they all have a point regardless of whether they are frivolous or serious.
  • Rules – they all have explicit or implicit directions for how to play. Implicit may be the unspoken rules around friendship, for example.
  • Time boundaries – some are brief and others take a long time. Personal development, for example, is a life-long process.
  • Spatial parameters – some games are played in a small physical space, such as your computer, or in a large workspace, like offices or the global marketplace
  • Prizes – all games have rewards of one kind or another, whether it’s a promotion and salary increase or a ranking as winner
  • Intensity – some games are fun; others serious, such as competing for a hard-get customer
  • Emotional reactions – some games are pleasurable, such as achieving financial success, or mere obligations, such as paying taxes.
  • Prescribed number of players – some games are played with older or younger people, or they may be solitary, such as meditation or prayer.
  • Intentionality – participation in some games is conscious, such as dating, while in others it may be totally unconscious, such as intimidating coworkers.
  • Language – most games use terms or symbols to convey specific meanings that are only relevant within a specific context, such as might be created when a team comes together to focus on an innovative new product or idea.
  • Roles – most games include roles everyone plays; there’s always a leader and other types of participants, such as spectators, rookies, experts, or artists.

Managing Change

If we look at managing change from the perspective of gamesmanship, we see that this is just another game we play, and it incorporates all the elements described above. As the pace of change continues to increase, organizations find they must be continually changing to keep up or stay ahead of the competition. This requires leaders at all levels who are nimble and understand how to play this game.

Because businesses and organizations of all types are continually changing and have been doing so “for as long we humans have been building hierarchical structures”, says Connor, the game of managing change has become more and more sophisticated. A new paradigm has been born that forces us to look at this managing change game from a new perspective.

According to Connor, paradigms are created as a response to people trying to make sense of the world around them. So as the world has continued to change and humans try to understand the implications of these changes, new questions and challenges arise, creating a new paradigm.

Ten years ago, for example, few people anticipated the impact the smart phone would have on daily lives. Yet society globally has become more and more mobile, and people are doing more shopping and internet browsing from their phones rather than their desktop computers. This has, and will continue to create, dramatic implications for businesses of all types. It has implications for broadband service providers and cable companies. It has implications for organizations selling their products and services online. It has implications for retailers with physical store locations as shoppers scan QR and bar codes in the store to find better pricing elsewhere.

Yet, despite this consumer trend, fewer than 5% of all websites today are mobile phone friendly, let alone tablet friendly. This is a new paradigm shift in the global marketplace game.

As leaders we need to stay abreast of these trends and consider the implications they have for our own businesses. Are we still trying to use the old set of rules to play in this new sandbox? Or are we adapting and changing the rules of the game to meet these new challenges?

Mobile smart phones and tablets have altered the global marketplace. What are you doing to meet this new challenge in order to play in this new game space?