Last month we offered a potential definition of organizational change management. We will let that discussion continue as we move along to review some of the change stimuli and the potential response modes to those stimuli.
For our purposes we place change stimuli into four broad drivers. Innovation, Productivity, Compliance, Force Majeure. I am not sure where to place corporate relevance, but would suggest that it falls into the force majeure bucket, as it is often an uncontrollable external force that determines how our organizations remain relevant in our rapidly changing world.
In the mid 20th century it was generally accepted that change was slow and steady. We could count on fairly long product cycles and so our ability to determine that change was necessary, and our response to the stimuli was able to be paced at a more comfortable level. I have heard figures citing a 2 ½ year or longer cycle for change in that period.
Since then we have seen nothing but an acceleration of that change, to a point where change now appears to be the “new” normal state. Innovation and Productivity seem to be greatest drivers or recipients of this acceleration. In today’s cell (mobile) phone market, products now have an effective 6 month cycle and generally fade to new products with 12 months. This pace of change requires a full innovation pipeline. Where it takes two to three years to develop product that means that there needs to be at least 6 generations or improvements of product under development at any time.
This pace of change is magnified in the sense that leadership is often ahead of the curve of the design, manufacturing, marketing, sales, finance and supply chain personnel, making the understanding of the necessary change management that much more intricate. For each change in the organization, product or service, there are at least four distinct waves of where personnel is on the change curve, and each of those needs to be managed individually.
Each of these drivers is created or addressed by internal or external forces, and by proactive or reactive modes. Many organizations have adopted very proactive voice of the customer (VoC) processes to ensure that they are not reactive to changing market demands, but are able to anticipate and proactively drive their market space. Where successful these companies lead the rest of the market space.
The relative age of our organizations helps shape our capacity for innovative change, but need not dictate. New organizations often don’t suffer from atrophy but may not be able to market their wares and services, or are ahead of the curve – a case where second adopters are more likely to succeed,
I have worked with organizations that embraced innovation, not just as new products, but rather new ways of providing services, moving from sellers of “boxes” to partners in solutions to customer problems. These proactive steps often were, in fact, a reaction to the external pressure from customers, who were seeking solutions to their problems, and not just the next “cool” tool.
Next time we will look more deeply into innovation and the stimuli, how we behave to the stimuli. In the mean time, please post your thoughts to expand this conversation.