Managing change in a world that is both changing and is not

Normcore potus















LONDON — With every day comes a new mix of the hurtling pace of change and the underlying “sameness” of everyday life.

And while change is so prevalent in business discussions that people blush to say it is a constant, there remains a fundamental, underlying constancy about what we know to be familar too.

The future is here and it’s pretty amazing.  But it’s also not as alarming as The Jetsons, Star Wars or 1984 promised.

Two articles in today’s New York Times point out the way the future is happing now, and how it very much is not.

Yesterday, the first and biggest Internet-based business, Amazon, announced the launch of Fire TV.  Whether Fire TV becomes what it hopes to or does not is irrelevant today. Amazon is so enthusiastic about it that they haven’t even bothered to explain all the ways that it may change lives.

With Fire TV we will be able to buy clothes we like on TV shows, book holidays to see a spot we like in a movie, or package up our own home movies (with great in-built production) and sell them on directly.

All of which sounds pretty exciting. It is decribed as the battle for one of the remaining areas of communication — having already colonised books, music and telephones.

At the same time there’s a lovely and clueless article in the same paper about “normcore”. This is a phenomena that may not even be a phenomena. It’s a fashion trend that has been generating masses of ink this year, and it may not even exist.

Normcore is decribed as the desire / ability to dress like a tourist.  To wear ill-fitting jeans, white trainers and a baseball hat.  That is to fit in with everyone around you.  To go to a football game and enjoy it, like everyone else.

There is plenty more that you can read on each of these developments across any media you choose.

How do they fit into business and the ability to manage change?

Well they do. They tell us about the world we live in.

In the midst of change people will always look for signs of familiarity.  They will be drawn to things that remind them of old routines. They will seek out opportunities to renew old habits. They will look to find ways to “fit in”.

Change is fundamentally difficult and runs counter to basic human nature. We never change our bank accounts. We try to park in the same spot.  We choose to work with people we know.

However, there is no denying the pace of change. And the need to adapt.  Intellectually most experienced business people can see that and they can get excited about it: Bring on Fire TV!

While at the same time we will also quickly revert to what we know. That’s why so many changes fail. Whether you are a football manager who brings his own “back room” staff, or a call centre worker who carries around his own photos, you’re hanging on to what you know: your own normcore.

As a result, the fundamental issue in managing change can be as simple as knowing what needs to change and appreciating what does not.


A different approach to building leadership capability for change

We all know that leadership is key to successful change, and organisations are increasingly paying attention to building leadership capability for this purpose. Most organisations develop this through general leadership programmes. These programmes can be effective in explaining the key theories and models and offering some practical tips. However, a real focus on change leadership is often overlooked.

Our clients often tell us, ‘… our internal training programmes are really good, but not very effective. Most of our leaders know the theory, but struggle with the reality of implementation.’

As change consultants, we work with leaders of all levels of capability. In all of our engagements we aim to develop the capability of the people we work with, whether this is through knowledge-transfer, training or up-skilling.

When it comes to leadership change capability, we believe that, next to generic leadership development programmes, leaders need on-the-job, practical training. McKinsey Quarterly agrees with us (or we agree with them!). In a recent article, titled ‘Why leadership-development programs fail’, they argue:

  • Develop only a few leadership skills that are relevant to the organisation – not just a one size fits all programme
  • Combine leadership development with on-the-job practical training on projects that have a business impact
  • Change behaviours and mind-sets of leaders as part of the development
  • Measure the results and return on investment

So when it comes to leadership capability, we often take a slightly different approach than traditional leadership development programmes. It allows our clients to continue to drive successful change long after we have left.

One of the ‘different’ ways we build leadership change capability is through the Able and How Change Index. The Change Index is our diagnostic tool used to improve the performance and accelerate the implementation of large change programmes. Through our approach we offer leaders and implementation teams a different viewpoint of their programme, allowing them to see things from a new light, and act in a way they have not done before. We encourage open discussions, focusing on analysing what is working well and what can be improved.

We also track the effectiveness of capability development over time; using our Change Index tool we monitor the progress and performance of programmes as well as scores on change leadership. With all of our clients we have seen a significant increase in these scores as a result of our approach. And these scores are sustained over time, clear evidence of the lasting effects.

What are your experiences with leadership programmes and change capability development?

Please contact me or anyone on the consulting team to discuss your challenges further. It will be great to hear from you.

Helena van Berkum

Our unique proposition

Able and How

LONDON — When organisations set out to improve their operations they can project how the changes will add real value to their business. However in most cases they do not achieve all the benefits that the changes promised. This is the story in almost every business in operation. Strategies don’t reach the heights they intended. New systems and technology aren’t adopted as easily or effectively as hoped. People can’t make the improvements that the plans said would come.

So value is lost, or, to put it plainly, money is left on the table.

But that shouldn’t be the case. The reasons that organisations struggle to make changes are well documented. And those are the areas where Able and How works to support effective and sustainable change. Specifically we target many of the areas where change is most likely to run into trouble:

  • change design and planning
  • vision
  • leadership
  • communication
  • culture
  • engagement
  • accountability
  • innovation

These are unique problems that even excellent technical change management planning cannot overcome.

In most businesses the inability to implement change is a epidemic that has a cure. The way in which we work with our clients ensures that they capitalise on all the opportunities that they have.

We deliver value in organisations by driving effective and sustainable change.

We have found that this is unique.


Putting the people stamp on change

We have often said that ‘how’ we implement change is as important as ‘what’ we are changing.  So we were interested to attend an Association for Project Managers (APM) event around enabling change.  Here are some of our observations:

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