The More Things Change The More They Will Change Some More - Managing Disruptive Change

One of the biggest challenges faced by management in today's business environment is that change is inevitable. Advances and innovations in manufacturing, marketing, technology, and even human resources require a business to adapt or be left behind in an ever increasingly dynamic marketplace. The adjustments fall into two distinct categories. The first type of change is incremental change and consists of small adjustments that can happen with very little impact on the business as a whole such as changing a form or procedure for a certain task. The second type has a much wider and greater effect on the organization as a whole. Consisting of major changes such as mergers and acquisitions, replacement of entire operating or manufacturing systems, or substantial changes to workforce, this type of change is appropriately titled disruptive change. 

Incremental change typically has minimal effect on, often only a small group of, employees. For this reason, mid to upper management may not even be involved in such decisions. Disruptive change, on the other hand, has significant impact on a much larger group, often even throughout the entire organization. Because of this impact it is imperative that the change be managed by senior level management. In order to promote successful change, management needs to follow certain steps to foster acceptance and implementation of the change.

  • Identify the business impact - As ultimately the primary responsibility of management is the successful operation of the business it is critical that there be very strong due diligence to determine that the benefits of the change outweigh associated costs.
  • Identify the human impact - While secondary to the business needs, the needs of staff, customers, vendors, and affiliates also deserve and require significant analysis prior to change implementation. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in change management is earning the buy-in of company stakeholders. Without this buy-in even the most beneficial projects for the business will struggle or fail.
  • Lead by example - The best way to earn buy-in is to demonstrate that management is also affected by the proposed change and has empathy for the stakeholders who'll be impacted. Management being very transparent and open about the benefits of the change will greatly increase the acceptance by subordinates.
  • Accept feedback - When faced with change, most people will have questions and comments and possibly even suggestions. While decisions regarding change are ultimately up to management, there is no harm in listening to and even potentially adopting ideas from the rest of the team.  

As change is going to happen and management will be faced with designing, coaching, and implementing this change it is critical that businesses provide their senior managers with the appropriate training to prepare for successful completion of these tasks. For more information, read more in a manage disruptive change book today.