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Managing Change in the Digital Age

12 February 2020

By Vikram Peddakotla

As way back as 1996, Harvard Business School professor John Kotter claimed that nearly 70 percent of large-scale change programs didn't meet their goals, and virtually every survey since has shown similar results. Needless to say, the track record of organizations with Organizational Change has been very dismal.

Having observed the Organizational Change Management (OCM) approaches of organizations in close quarters, I have seen that organizations typically adopt a "engineer and manage" approach to their change initiatives. This is primarily due to the way they have been programmed to think and designed to operate. As McKinsey aptly puts it "today's organizations were simply never designed to change proactively and deeply - they were built for discipline and efficiency, enforced through hierarchy and routinization".


What is needed is a change to our organizational frame of reference "from driving the adoption of change to being adept in embracing change".


What that implies is that, in an organization which is typically management-centric (top down driving of thoughts and actions), how do we bring in an employee-centric (involve and engagement at various levels of the organization) approach to change?

Easier said than done. That is a very disruptive thought which requires changing the very essence of the organization, dismantling the existing structures and re-building from scratch. That is just not possible, let alone affordable.


So, how do we change the wheels of our organizational train while the train is in motion? Is there a way to create an incremental approach to transformation while running our current operations?

With Digital being the way of the future, this is key challenge facing several leaders across organizations.


Here is my take on an incremental approach to transforming the organization across all facets of organizational change covering:

  1. Enabling Change

  2. Socializing Change

  3. Adopting Change


#1 Enabling Change: Rather than taking a Stakeholder buy-in and engagement approach, adopt a holistic employee engagement and empowerment model.

Start from the top. Rather than management doing all the planning and thinking and reaching out to the employees for implementation, involving them in the planning process is a great place to start.

Most organizations do have some mechanism like an idea box to capture ideas and have a metric to count the number of contributions made. But, the ideation platform stops well short of its intention. Work on leveraging an innovation platform that would provide an end-to-end mechanism from ideation to monetization.

Create an ecosystem where ideas are encouraged, and an intrapreneurship mindset is inculcated. This will create a belief and confidence in your employees to not only come up with new ideas but also realise that their opinion matters.

#2 Socializing Change: Instead of focusing on marketing and communication of change, invest in Mindset Change and Readiness initiatives that enable employees to embrace change.

When change is perceived as being imposed on someone, their natural reaction would be to resist change. Add to it, if we start pushing the message of change while the readiness to accept change is low, it only heightens the resistance and may even lead to fear and uncertainty. This creates the exact opposite effect that organizations set out to create in the first place. To top it all off, surveys are run that would indicate that change is yet to be accepted, and as it happens, employees are subjected to more verbal barrage from the leadership.

As with any successful marketing campaign, the timing of messaging is the key to success. Yes, messaging is not only important but crucial to success but when the audience is not ready to absorb and internalise, it will all fall into deaf ears.

Invest resources in shaping the Employee Mindset and build their readiness to adapt. This should be first step of any change initiative, as when the ground is fertile, the results would speak for themselves.

#3 Adopting Change: Instead of just doing job impact assessments due to change, extend it to doing the talent to value mapping by not only appraising the employees to the new roles but also coaching them to fit in them.

Take a human centred approach to the new ways of working. Enable the employees to envision the future of work, let them experience how their work and workplace will be transformed in the future. Provide them with not only the know-how of the new roles but also let them realise upfront, what would be required to fit those roles. In fact, go a step further, provide mentors to guide them and facilitate building and enhancing their capabilities to not only fit but thrive in their new roles.

Give the power of change in the hands of the employees, let them drive their future. Rather than the fear of losing their jobs, let them get excited and motivated in shaping their careers.

Remember, change will only be successful when employees are motivated and energised by change. The conventional top-down driving and managing change has run its course. RIP conventional Organizational Change Management (OCM)!!!

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