Often labelled change or transformation efforts (and there is some confusion about which is which: We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation) there is little doubt organisation’s of all kind are under increasing pressure to keep pace with a rapidly shifting marketplace. I chose reinvention because it’s the more innovative and proactive approach in my mind. Fashionable these days is also the label disruption which is probably overused and somewhat pernicious. I also aptly used the term navigation because the waters are choppy and the destination or purpose of many of these efforts, whatever you label them, is very seldom reached as planned. It’s no secret that success rates are greatly in question too. But the question is what gets in the way.
I’m no expert change practitioner and have made my priorities of where it fits known before. Based on my lay observations over the years as a participant or observer of a great many efforts in this space, I think this will be a constant tussle. I put it down to the ever present paradoxes listed below.
Change and resistance
The pace of change is increasing exponentially hitting many industries incessantly. Inherent in many organisations that have operated in the same way for many years and been highly successful at it, is a natural resistance to the change they see outside. Until it’s too late that is, but that’s for another point. And the paradox is that sometimes the greater the external need to change is, the more resistance there is to adapting to it from internal forces.
Leaders and blockers
Leadership (that is, senior executives) are often looked to, to drive the transformation. Indeed they are most often the ones that come up with the need and plan to change. Sometimes they end up being unable to live the change. It ends up being lip service. They expect others to do the heavy lifting on change work. In extreme cases they actively block the change. At worst, their lack of authentic engagement stymies successful change.
People and tools/processes
It’s easy to look to tools and/or processes first for solutions. They are inanimate and don’t talk back. You can draw pretty diagrams, flow charts and graphs or point out funky features that will lead to success. The difficult work is dealing with people and they are also through whom the real execution takes place. The culture (another loosely formed construct with powerful impact) of the current organisation and how receptive it is to changing is where work is also required but seldom with looked to first.
Network and hierarchy
Hierarchical management approaches have served the organisation for many years and although it has come into question in recent years, may still suffice for larger organisation’s that operate at massive global scale. What it is definitely less effective for is when change is required especially when it needs to happen fast. Information flows are not efficient in a hierarchy. In a network, information is not bound or contained and can flow as it needs to, to find its most useful outlet.
Innovation and crises
The worst way to try and reinvent yourself is when you are reacting, when you are being forced to make it happen out of necessity. Far better would be to have the luxury of foresight and planning and a deep level understanding to decide what and how you will reinvent the business. Not as a knee jerk reaction. Far better ultimately would be to have the capability to ingrained into the business – to be able to predict changes needed ahead of time and respond intuitively and ahead of the curve.