Change and transformation are words that resonate with almost every area of our lives. Climate change, digital transformation, economic transformations, usf. – “change” seems to be the silver underlining to every dialogue these days. Despite the many conversations we have on change, it remains a challenge to drive it and to get people on board. One task I’d like to give you at this point is: Find out “why” this is and how you could approach this challenge through dialogue and listening, inclusion and integration, questioning and openness.
As an innovation and startup coach, I have had the great fortune to compare young and agile startups to mature companies for years. Interestingly, the questions and uncertainties have not changed much. While startups are facing the uncertainty of whether they will succeed, established firms similarly face the uncertainty of whether they will continue to be successful in times of change.
One might argue that the minor difference between those organizations is that startups are smaller, more agile and more apt to adapt their business model according to market changes. This is true in some ways. Startups whose founders have fostered a mindset of adaptation and effectuation early on within the company, while concurrently promoting strategic approaches to agility, are more prone to adapt, if need be.
Whereas established companies, large in employee size and used to working within grown structures and processes, need more time to gain speed for action, if the drivers of change require them to revise their value proposition and business model.
What both startups and large companies have in common is that they rely first and foremost on human beings. Strategic and sustainable change depends on the people within the company who live and drive that change.
Strategic and sustainable change depends on the people within the company who live and drive that change.
However, the human brain likes its routines. It likes the known and it likes to act within agreed rules of understanding. Acting within these rules, facilitates decision making – esp. for leaders and managers. It also increases the speed of action within groups or teams.
We should imagine the brain to work in large “autobahns” and smaller paths. The longer we do the same things in the same way, and think the same things in the same way, the bigger those “autobahns” get.
Now, how do we foster a mindset of openness that increases the likeliness to leave these “autobahns” and to take a detour on a smaller road?
We should imagine the brain to work in large “autobahns”. The longer we do the same things in the same way, and think the same things in the same way, the bigger those “autobahns” get.
There is probably not only one answer to that. Based on my observations of innovation and transformation processes, however, I would like to suggest the following:
1) Start at the top:
By bringing CEO´s, CDO`s (Chief Digital Officers) and HR together, the top of the firm signals openness for dialogue, esp. when it comes to new, more digitally oriented company goals.
2) Include and listen:
Do not let these exchanges stop at the top. Allow for them to continue within the company and make this in inclusive conversation – a conversation that includes everyone in the firm, across functions; and a conversation that is as much about shared goals as it is about facing uncertainties and fears together.
3) Invite questions more than answers:
Make people within this discourse feel heard. Bring people of all levels to the table and invite questions more than you expect answers. Change is a process of facing uncertainty together as a company and a group of human beings.
4) Communicate the change openly:
As an attentive leader who is driving change, make sure to accept that you do not have to know it all. Self-organized organizations are more than strategic statements. They are a form to empower people during transformational processes. They are a chance to leave the “autobahns” together in order to explore different new routes and to compare where they lead to.
In a nutshell: Change and transformation are deeply human, and yet, it is what humans tend to fear. By opening up the space of possibility within the firm, top down and bottom up, leadership can foster a mindset of shared change, shared goals and, ultimately, shared growth.
Have fun. 😉
I am looking forward to your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to share them in the comments.
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