Though change is inevitable within any organiza- tion, getting people to go along with it can be an arduous task, even when the benefits are clear.
Such was the case for a U.S.-based software company
that needed to keep track of its global business travelers.
The company, which we’ll call Compete, had already been
fined several times for immigration violations when employees visiting foreign client sites inadvertently exceeded
business visa time limits. Although similar violations had
gone unnoticed in the past, new technologies that made detection easier were now being used in many jurisdictions.
If Compete didn’t find a way to prevent future violations,
it would most likely face stiffer penalties going forward,
including possible bans on entry in key markets.
To remediate this, Compete hired a company to implement a travel compliance program. This would ensure, among other things, that both Compete and its
employees would be notified of potential immigration
violations well in advance, and could easily avoid them.
Despite this relatively simple solution, some employees opposed it. Implementation of the new program would take time and resources and teams were
already strapped. Process revisions would also be needed, which would take even more time, and so on.
In the end, fortunately, the system was put in place, with
minimal disruption, and violations were eliminated. But it
took a systematic effort, on both the part of Compete and
its vendor, to overcome pushback and create buy in.
WHY WE RESIST
As many know, scenarios like this are typical. Companies today face increasingly rapid change, from new
technologies to political shifts, which they can’t afford
to ignore. But employees often resist anyway, especially if they don’t see the point.
That’s because we’re creatures of habit, preferring
the status quo to the unknown and unfamiliar, says
Madeline Laurano, human capital analyst, change man-
agement pro, and co-founder of Aptitude Research Part-
ners. “Change can bring tremendous opportunity but it
can also elicit fear. Employees often fear that their jobs
will be disrupted, their value to the workplace will be
jeopardized, and their ability to meet new expectations
will be challenging. They fear they will fail.”
Trust can also be an issue, notes a recent poll of U.S.
workers by the American Psychological Association.
Nearly a third of respondents said they were cynical
when it comes to employer change, due to perceived
hidden agendas and lack of transparency.
But for most organizations today, avoiding change
isn’t an option, no matter how much agita it creates.
As the rate of disruption accelerates and threatens
virtually every industry, companies that rest, rust. And
those that don’t evolve risk obsolescence. In fact, mastering the art of rapid change has become a critical
competitive advantage, and organizations that are able
to succeed at this are far more likely to come out ahead.
MAKING CHANGE HAPPEN
So what does it take to make change happen? Not
much if you’re in a highly agile and entrepreneurial
environment (e.g., a garage-based startup), but a solid
plan and tenacity if you’re not.
Depending on the scope of the change and number of employees impacted, it may also take someone
versed in the art of change management, which has
evolved as a formalized discipline in recent years, to
shepherd an initiative to its conclusion.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Regardless of what approach is used—a specific
change management model or hybrid—the first step is
knowing one’s audience, says Kelly Keating, a Prosci
certified consultant with Black Box Consulting. “
Determining who will be impacted by an initiative must
be the initial step. This allows you to size the change
Mastering the Art of Organizational Change
BY TIM KERNAN