in "The Review" (February, 2001)
Small acorns grow into big oak trees - this is the theory
at the heart of modern change management.
Vipul Bhatti reports :
Every voter in the US Presidential elections wanted
change, and both key candidates promised to deliver
it. What Clinton has done, what Bush hopes to do and
what Gore could have done is what Herbert Haag has achieved
at PartnerRe and what Max Taylor's successor must do
at Loyd's: manage change. Many leaders make their mark
because of what they transform. But the results are
affected by how such transformations are handled.
The concept of 'change management' has become increasingly
popular among corporates over the last ten years. The
IT revolution is forcing them to increase their operational
pace and achieve long -term prosperity. According to
Dennis Hoppe, president of New York-based Change Management
Implementation, the technology revolution has had "a
tremendous impact". Consequently, the need to react
faster to change has increased significantly over the
last 40 years. Scoring a goal in one game is not enough.
Maintaining success is about how to play and win the
Large companies often experience resistance when attempting
to reform "the old ways", says Hoppe. Newly
created companies do not have to contend with building
bridges between established and new philosophies. "Starting
from scratch in today's market is an absolute advantage.
Old ideas must be undone and more forward thinking people
need to be brought to the forefront," comments
Hoppe. He believes smaller companies adapt faster, suffer
fewer drawbacks and push through new ideas faster because
they have fewer, more receptive, committees and a more
Most companies have much less time to adapt than ever
before. Sozen Leimon, an associate partner at Accenture
in London (formerly known as Andersen Consulting), believes
cost reduction, production and customer services are
key change drivers. She says: "Customers have more
knowledge, more information, and there are more service
providers. There's no rest period for companies. They
have to think of the next product, the next service.
Pressure from shareholders is also increasing."
US organisational theorist, Frederick Taylor
presented the notion of change in organisations to help
make businesses more efficient in the early 20th century.
He believed workers were cogs in a machine and his philosophy
aimed to eliminate as much human error as possible. But
this was in the old world.
Dori Digenti, president of Learning Mastery, an education
and consulting firm in Massachusetts, argues that the
works of theorists such as Mary Parker Pollet and Ed Schein
heralded a philosophical watershed. They believed in thinking
about organisations where people were the focus of change.
Follet and Schein asked how businesses could become more
'human', productive and foster respect for workers. This
is a big challenge in a world that relies heavily on technology
to communicate and carry out the most routine tasks.
Digenti feels change is poorly understood, despite the
wealth of academic work that exists. "It's like looking
through a window and seeing a cool forest on the other
side, a glade fountain where you can relax and reflect,
but not being able to find the door that leads to that
space," she says. Most people see what real change
can do. But their organisations have not developed the
will or resources to move in a new direction.
Schein talked about the need to address 'learning anxiety'
in the process of change. To reach the proverbial forest
companies must give employees time to learn new behaviours
without instilling fear of appearing incompetent. Digenti
says strong leaders -an often overlooked but crucial part
of change management- can manage such vulnerability sensitively.
Golf is a good example says Richard DiGeorgio, president
of Pennsylvania-based change management consultancy, Richard
DiGeorgio & Associates. With the right instructor
most people can learn how to play, and the learning process
itself may lead to success. He adds that achievements
can happen with motivation. The father of champion golfer
Tiger Woods raised his son's aspirations to be better.
Now Woods just keeps winning.
The process of change can improve the business environment,
even in well-run organisations. "There are many toxic
workplaces out there, where people feel constrained, demotivated
and hopeless every morning," says Digenti. She believes
leaders can avoid unwanted and potentially unpleasant
change by creating forums where employees can discuss
their concerns freely.
She questions whether leaders really listen to their teams.
Digenti says: "It takes a lot of training and openness
to hear what others are saying. Leaders often fear appearing
indecisive." Claiming to be aware of change and being
able to implement it are two very different things. Understanding
change management and being able to act on it is what
separates success from failure.
This is why companies need to strike a balance between
strategic thinkers and operational managers. Leimon says:
"Leadership is accountable for operations. It needs
to have a clear focus of core business and value generators.
Simultaneously, strategic thinkers should be aware of
the importance of the external environment and look into
how it's changing."
George Binney and Colin Williams, authors of Leaning into
the Future, agree. They say: "There is always a price
to pay for riding roughshod over people. Compliance can
be demanded, but commitment cannot. People will give grudgingly
what they have to, not all that they can ...The price
for this is usually paid in the long-term."
But Hoppe warns that change is not an option. It is a
necessity. "You must boost competitiveness and motivate
change, or you'll fail. The window of opportunity gets
shorter and shorter, rapid response and a proactive management
structure are critical... Great decisions aren't about
But not all goals are attainable. Setting and achieving
them is a catch 22 situation. He says: "In this global
e-commerce economy we often have to make trial and error
decisions, but the initial goal can't be fanciful. It
must be realistic." Trying to reach too far will
often prevent successful changes from materialising. Conversely,
failure to aim high enough may not achieve the desired
According to Digenti, small bites first work best. "Work
up a series of small successes before going after large
change. The biggest source of corporate cynicism is the
large change process, where promises are made and not
kept." No organisation should begin a new process
without having a very detailed implementation plan, or
a budget to cover the initial change phases and maintain
the new culture. "Small is beautiful. You need a
track record of successes to build trust," comments
TAKING THE LEAP
It is not easy to implement new ideas, and companies should
accept that failure can be an expensive part of risk taking.
They also need to acknowledge that management sometimes
gets it wrong. "You have to look and think outside
the box," says Leimon. "Change management is
expensive, but going for change is better than less investment."
DiGeorgio uses the 'boiled frog syndrome' to explain why
companies should not fear change, and why they should
think their plans through thoroughly. He explains: "Put
a frog in tepid water. If you slowly turn up the heat
the frog will remain in the pot. If you start out with
boiling water and then drop the frog in it will jump out."
The moral of the
story is : If change is introduced gradually, frogs will
die because they become too weak to alter. But the pain
of the heat will force them to act. Funnily enough, this
usually applies to humans too.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT GUIDE
SOURCE: LEANING INTO THE FUTURE, BY GEORGE BINNEY AND
COLIN WILLIAMS (NICHOLAS BREALEY PUBLISHING, 1995)
|| Establish a sense
of urgency -examine market and competitive realities
and identify and discuss crises, potential crises
or major opportunities.
|| Form a powerful guiding coalition
-assemble a group with enough power to lead the
change effort and encourage the group to work together.
||Create a vision to help the change
effort and develop strategies for achieving it.
|| Empower others to act on the
vision -get rid of the obstacles to change: change
systems or structures that seriously undermine the
vision; and encourage risk taking and non-traditional
ideas, activities, and actions.
|| Plan for and create short-term
wins -plan for viable performance improvements,
create those improvements and recognise and reward
employees involved in them.
|We believe in continuously enhancing
our strategic intent through the D-cube model
||We believe that for getting success,
you require right Direction.
||Discovering innovative solutions.
||After getting right direction and After discovering
|| leave upon the Destiny.