Everyone is hyperaware of change. What is the next trend? What has our competition learned to do that we have not? What are customers’ changing expectations etc.?

We work with many consultants—their job is to help businesses change. Change a process, a habit, a way of thinking. Change what prevents a company from reaching its goals. It’s a hard job, and the appetite for change varies from person to person within a company. Some don’t even think it applies to them; usually, those people are in mid-level management.

We’ve seen it happen firsthand when only marketing is held accountable for a company’s rebranding. The sales manager tells his people to do what they think best.

We’ve seen it in departments within Fortune 500’s that are working to adopt new processes that managers can’t remember the name of or how to find relevant files on the server.

The critical thing that is often missing is good communication to create alignment.

The Cycle of Change

The change cycle often begins as a push from the top to change the bottom. Unfortunately, some team members fail to understand how vital their role is to effect change. Managers don’t have time or the inclination to be part of the process. Mid-level leaders seem to think it’s for those doing the work to change, not them, or more specifically, not realizing/acknowledging that the entire culture needs changing. Because the structure/culture doesn’t change, things slide back to an odd mix of old and new. Assuming anything new gets a foothold.

Fear of Change

Some in management who resist change do so because they worry about how it may change their job. For example, it may result in a loss of power and control, increase workload, or simply create uncertainty. However, there is a difference between internal factors controlling the process, trying to do things better versus external factors creating knee-jerk change from fear. The latter, make concerns about power and control often come true.

It’s Not About Constant Change

The idea of constant change is also a cultural attitude that has a negative impact. Those who seek constant change are equally problematic. People need consistency and structure to work in a team and towards a goal. If things keep changing, people get frustrated, leading to burnout. There is no leadership, only chaos and frustration.

Managed Change

Change is essential for a business to survive long-term but only managed change can succeed. The best guess at defining a relationship between change and consistency is changing is 5-10% (perhaps lower) of the time, and spending 90-95% of the remaining time building on the change, creating the processes and structure everyone needs to function.

Still, you need a culture that embraces the need for both change and stability. Being a leader, at any level, is a responsibility as well as an achievement. If leadership sees the need for change, they need to acknowledge they are part of the system that is out of alignment. They have a role to play that is more than just bringing in a consultant and signing a check.

Finally, a change plan that does not include communication leaves everyone to guess why it’s happening and how it impacts them.

Internal Marketing

Marketing can play a role in change. Unfortunately, communication is often the first casualty of change. It’s often struck me how companies spend so much effort and time messaging their potential customers and customers but so little effort to ensure alignment in the workplace.

The Right Message

From the top-down, the case for change needs to be clear and meaningful. Marketing communications is the best resource to support making that case. Create a consistent platform. One-and-done attempts will get ignored.

It’s essential to define the change and its impact–

  • Communicate the purpose of the change.
  • Assure the team it’s not about continuous change but managed change.
  • Express the idea that change is finite ‑ to help manage concerns.
  • Be inclusive and talk about how everyone, at all levels, has a role to play in working toward the goal.
  • Remind everyone that it’s a short-term investment in something uncomfortable for a long-term return for everyone’s future.
  • Include the positive, such as met milestones.
  • Reenforce the change after it happened to ensure it stays in place.

Being a team is more than just being told you are part of one. It’s working in a culture that respects and acknowledges that everyone is doing the best they can in their role, even when those roles change.

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