How to Manage Change in Changing Times
We can’t always manage change. The word management has a connotation of taking control, creating a plan and moving pieces forward and parts together in a linear fashion. In this era of constant change, we can plan, shift, adapt and envision, but we may have more influence than real control over many of the situations in which we find ourselves.
Daryl Conner, in his 1993 book, Managing at the Speed of Change, cited Alvin Toffler’s notion of future shock: “Future shock relates to the overlapping impact of too much change that is too complex to deal with and occurs at too rapid a pace. The results are high levels of stress and the inability to adapt quickly enough.”
If we pay attention to Conner—and to Toffler’s wisdom—then we’ll realize that organizations worldwide have reached the point of extensive future shock. Conner translates this broad concept into organizational symptoms now apparent everywhere: irritation, diverted attention, poor decision-making, decreased risk-taking, defensive and blaming behavior, decreased honesty, decreased directness and decreased team effectiveness.
Anything sound familiar? As a consultant for numerous multinational corporations, I have observed that those change-reactive behaviors are increasing rapidly.
So what should we do with these symptoms of future shock? We need to focus on the future from a place of strength, rather than one of fear. Change management must be simplified, and clear messages must come from every manager. We need to focus on the most effective tactics of leaders during challenging times. Those who succeed at leading under pressure share a set of skills that can be developed and cultivated by everyone:
Accept reality and focus on the future.
Take the time to look at the inherent truths of your business, good and bad, then move forward quickly with a realistic plan to address any weaknesses. Consider GM as an unfortunate example. One of the company’s great challenges over the last year has been accepting the reality of consumer demands.
Build relationships and community.
Think not only about your customer, but also about your employees. According to the Gallup organization, only 29 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work. When you build positive relationships with employees, engagement goes up—and so does productivity.
View challenges as opportunities.
The simplest and sometimes most challenging aspect of managing change is the ability to see the possibilities in outright problems. The Tata Corporation, in India, had an enormous obstacle to face: Most Indians can’t afford a car. By investing in the development and manufacture of the Nano, a car that’s around three times cheaper than a motorcycle, Tata now has access to an additional 14 million families that may actually be able to purchase its product.
KARLIN SLOAN is a CEO, author and leadership expert. She leads an international team of consultants who provide executive development services to multinational corporations. Email Karlin at email@example.com.