LEC Tip Sheet...

How to avoid Change Management fad pitfalls...

“Change” is cried up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. They also say that, since world is rapidly changing, a company has to undertake constant drastic changes in order not to be overtaken.

The truth is, of course, another matter. Sound judgment and “common sense”, not just bold (and often foolhardy) changes ensure your company’s survival.

“Change” is lucrative
It’s sensible to look at who is evangelising change as the only right path to success. Understandably, it’ll often be consultancies who are able to convince the client that his or her business will go under, unless they implement Business Process Engineering, Branding Equity, Total Quality Management, E-Business, Customer Relationship Management, Shareholder Value, Balanced Scorecard, etc.

Few business leaders dare say no when “everybody else is doing it” – because what’ll happen if rival competitors get success doing it?

When change does more damage than good
In the 1990s, Business Process Engineering was a very popular subject. All companies were now supposed to be checked in every nook and corner so that optimisation could be undertaken across the board. In and of itself a reasonable idea, but unfortunately BPR quickly became a synonym of “downsizing”. In other words, BPR came to mean getting rid of a lot of people rather than, as originally intended, making things more effective. As a result, changes made were often not very enduring.

A more recent example of this is the notion of Shareholder Value. Far too many public companies are working like mad to satisfy the views of 25-year old analysts -- instead of looking more closely at what’s good for the company in the longer run.

During WW1, hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers died on the battlefields in Northern France, without bringing about any real changes in the situation. In spite of a hopeless outlook, they were ordered out of the trenches to fight their way through deep mud, only to conquer a few feet of ground from the enemy. Anybody at the front could see that it was hopeless, but the generals, who were staying in grand castles far away, could not.

You can see something similar with change programmes in which personnel are being asked to implement things that do not have any real impact on the company’s market position. Why does this happen? Too often, it’s because management has lost touch with both the market, customers, and staff -- and instead they take to the latest change fad.

Change is a means, not an end
Naturally, change is not, in itself, bad. Companies have to evolve and adapt. However, there’s a big difference between change for the sake of change and change as an instrument – a means to constantly optimising what really counts: customers and the service processes that deal with them. The concepts “constantly” and “continuously” are essential. In most cases, it takes a commonsensical approach and steady advancement, not abrupt revolutions, if you want to ensure your company’s success.

People before systems
Research shows that what sets apart great companies from good companies is their approach to change. Great companies do not try to create revolutions. Instead, they work to constantly improve themselves, based on their own organisation and style. In other words, they don’t panic and jump on the change bandwagon, but apply a cool, considered analysis of new ideas. This way, they make use of the best and discard what doesn’t suit their company.

Vision and values
Another point that characterises great companies is that they are very careful about constructing a powerful team of people before formulating a “vision”. If you’ve got the wrong team, it’s no good having a good direction. On the other hand, with the right team, you can develop a vision where everybody pulls in the same direction, and that’ll undoubtedly make it easier to achieve stated goals.

A third point that exemplifies great companies is that they are led on the basis of values -- not just values created for the occasion or for the employee handbook, but meaningful and reflective values that team members can use in their daily work. That way, it’s much easier to adapt to regular change without having to engage in heavy, expensive, and too often ineffective change processes.

Make up your own mind
Rather than jumping into big change processes caused by mass frenzy, there’s plenty of reason to think for yourself. The majority is not always right. If you do choose to proceed with a change programme, make sure you, and not consultants, remain in control of the process.

Firstly, consultants won’t have a sufficiently thorough knowledge of your company and its team. Secondly, changes would otherwise not be sustainable. Besides, you’ll save yourself a small fortune by heading up the change process.

Further inspiration…?
At Clarity, we help business-to-business companies apply practical, sustainable change in international sales and marketing operations.

If you’d like to know how we do this, and how we may be able to help you, let’s arrange a meeting without obligation.

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