Amidst the trends of remodeling and scaling and the rapid proliferation of technology marking the beginning of this decade, business visionaries are propounding organizational changes that could preemptively square up to the headwinds of the global business climate in the storms of extreme disruption. Change management has become a sought-after consideration in boardrooms as well as C-suites. This has brought a new quandary to the forefront - how can change management be woven into the very business fabric made up of corporate functions, capabilities, and surrounding external and internal factors?
Change is Evolving into Transformation
For numerous decades, prevalent models for successfully implementing organizational change have undergone intense evolution and adjustment. Following Kurt Lewin's landmark work, William Bridges' Letting Go-The Neutral Zone-The New Beginning model was proposed in the ensuing decades, separating the transition process into three distinct stages. However, the explanations of change only aimed to organize the transition process rather than link organizational change with company vision or incorporate change as a constant agent of business operations.
Including strategy, our paradigms for how we think about change also must adapt and evolve. Dr. Hemjith Balakrishnan, an Organizational Capability Building and Leadership Development expert, shares, "The lifespan of a successful company continues to shrink. It is because companies don't evolve. They rather focus on change management." Change must not solely be reactive but also proactive and sustainable, only then can it bring a holistic transformation.
Greatest Behaviors Drive Greatest Impact
To achieve the best impact and relevance in today's VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) reality, transformation must be characterized by a set of behaviors driven by mindset and collective responsibility. "Every Transformation needs a Reboot with changing times, and leadership must brainstorm how to sustain the right behaviors without the crisis," says Dr. Hemjith.
Given a myriad of uncontrollable variables and external dynamics, managing change is no longer adequate, paving the way for a more urgent, bolder, and broader transformation. "Transformative leaders have a genuine trust in their people, which is clearly visible in their day-to-day communication and decisions. Secondly, they are open to feedback. And most importantly, they have the right people with the right attitude to work for them," adds Dr. Hemjith.
Curiosity Must Transcend the Orthodox Confines
"An unorthodox way of looking at things is required," emphasizes Dr. Hemjith. "Orkut was not curious enough and ignored the new PHP technology, whereas WhatsApp adopted it. Today, everyone knows Orkut could not survive the race," he further mentions. Curiosity-driven enterprises seek to address "why" and "what if" questions internally.
"Organizations that do not create history become history themselves. One such example is Kodak. When digital cameras were launched, Kodak was not ready for this disruptive technology; hence it could not survive," mentions Dr. Hemjith, recounting some popular brands' downfall. Being future-ready is the key to staying relevant, and being curious is the foundation stone for being the creator of the future.
Curiosity must extend beyond the bounds of typical functions or industry. Transformative ideas are dawned at the adjacencies, in the spaces in between, when the thoughts about the standard agenda take pause.
Agility Helps Sustain Transformation
What defines an organization's agility is its capability to swiftly and efficiently alter its course as necessary based on competition, consumer, or market intelligence. Businesses must be daringly bold about what they decide to discontinue and avoid being trapped into believing they can capitalize on recent triumphs indefinitely.
Dr. Hemjith quotes the example of the iPhone. Apple constantly drops its older high-in-demand models to make way for new phones. "Similarly, an established brand like Hindustan Lever was stirred by Nirma (a popular detergent brand in India) owing to its lack of market intelligence to foresee the threat and agility to innovate and remodel its product. Later, HUL had to form a strategic think tank called STING to inhibit Nirma's growth," he adds.
There will inevitably be hiccups on the road to successfully operating a business in today's world. Customers in today's world react swiftly to show their approval or disapproval, and so should companies act - swiftly but proactively.
Discipline is Sacred to Transformation
"Fanatic discipline is the key for leaders willing to propel transformation. They must always be mindful that it's for a bigger and bolder purpose," says Dr. Hemjith. Discipline is sacred; faltering here should not be an option. Design thinking work is not about how revolutionary the concepts are but rather the discipline ingrained with which they are carried out.
Dr. Hemjith recounts one of the practices from his Health Prime days, "We had a monthly practice similar to an 'Open Day' in most schools. As a part of this, employees were given turns to give presentations about their department's performance in front of the TLs, HODs, and management. This kept them sharper, curious, and disciplined." To keep the daily discipline adrenaline high, some companies adopt 15-minute daily scrum meetings.
Undoubtedly, the transformation will remain to be a burning platform for forthcoming years. The new generation C-suite will seek to make its mark through transformative leadership. It is the era for companies to find a haven in digitization, analytics, and data science, in order to be ready to encounter unknown economic, political, market-led, and technological dynamics. It is the time for companies to evolve.