Change is an inevitable part of life, and business. It is required to grow, reach our fullest potential and move forward; yet as humans, we naturally resist these forces.
COVID-19 has shown us, despite our nature, just how capable we are of adapting. The pandemic forced dramatic and immediate changes to our habits, beliefs and perceptions. Similar events that force wide-sweeping changes in a short period create effective transformations, but this method comes with a cost.
The better approach to manage change events and lead transformations, particularly in the business world, is more subtle. Transformations become long-lasting and self-sustaining if they are led in a way that enables teams to own and direct the outcome, often through small, sometimes imperceptible daily changes. Stitching these micro-changes together over time and across a large number of individuals can result in large-scale transformation with long lasting impact.
When it comes to mobilizing human beings to act as catalysts for complex business transformation, it is better to start small.
CREATING A CULTURE THAT WELCOMES CHANGE
Our challenge in business is to help employees transform and grow. We all want to grow and reap the benefits of forward progress, but when we are presented with opportunities to do so, it can be hard to take that leap. By empowering individuals to own the transformation instead of simply presenting opportunities that force a reaction or change, we create a cycle of continuous and self-sustaining growth, the effects of which create exponential gains in human capital.
Transformations become sustainable as each individual realizes their potential, collectively propelling a larger vision for growth forward. Critical to success in change-embracing cultures is this concept of continuous change – that change efforts have no end point and this work is never done.
LARGE-SCALE TRANSFORMATIONS COME TO LIFE THROUGH DAILY EFFORT
Generating support for a change-embracing culture requires thoughtful positioning and structure. How could you inspire anyone to begin a never-ending project?
This reality is why many executives lead change through large-scale events instead of this continuous change loop. There is a perception that large-scale transformations fail because they are too complex, too hard; but the reality is simply that most transformations fail because they are implemented without the commitment or discipline to stick with change every day, and this element is key to a successful change loop.
Change management is an ongoing, never-ending endeavor. Successful leaders teach teams to view goals not as end points but as mile markers that keep everyone moving on the same road and in the same general direction forward.
To achieve large-scale transformations, we must break big-picture goals into digestible outcomes that can be achieved every day; in changing our daily habits, we create micro-transformations that build over time to generate real and sustainable growth.
ACCOUNT FOR THE HUMAN ELEMENT OF CHANGE
We tend to think of transformations as these highly complex, large-scale events that are associated with launching new-era work. In these terms, leaders focus on changing the systems, the workflows and optimizing performance. To make transformations more successful, we should be giving as much consideration to the humans who will drive the change as to the systems and workflows that will be changing.
This starts by empowering people to be a part of the transformation and positioning outcomes in a way that individuals feel they can control. We are much more likely to be open to change if we feel the change is something we are doing, as opposed to something that is being done to us.
At prosperous companies with healthy cultures, people want to be a part of the journey and contribute to the company’s collective success. At the same time, we are self-interested creatures motivated by our own success. Finding alignment between company goals and individual goals will create a synergy that results in self-sustaining transformation.