Most of my 20 year marketing career has involved managing change. In fact, I would go as far as to say that understanding change has been more important to my career than learning marketing theory.
Change means new processes, new metrics, different organisation structures, ground breaking technology, outsourcing part of the value chain and focusing on different customers or customer needs. Ultimately, change means we need people in our organisations to do different tasks (or tasks differently) because we are being forced to or because it will lead to greater success.
Every major marketing initiative from my first ecommerce website, through implement an automated dialler, several CRM solutions, social media and analytics right up until the IPad applications that I have launched have relied more on managing change than marketing. And not just technology based marketing projects, rebranding, putting customer insight at the heart of planning, establishing lead generation campaigns, all require major change management.
Of course customer insight is part of these developments DNA, but the initiatives success is comes from managing the change effectively.
So we educate, explain, make time for stakeholders to question, we are open to shape the change by those most impacted. We produce robust documentation, governance and risk management. All of these ingredients are baked into most organisations change or project management processes.
Yet what nearly all firms ignore is that our behaviours are driven by our values and capabilities, and they live in our subconscious. Organisations rationalise change, just as they do redundancy. They say ‘it’s not you being made redundant, it’s your role.’ Which of course rationally is true, so why does it feel like bereavement to the majority of people affected. Because our subconscious has developed values and capabilities that have always worked for us and no matter how much we try to rationalise at a conscious level, our subconscious holds these values to be true.
So how do organisations manage change at the level of their staff’s subconscious?
Firstly they must recognise that continuous change is the reality of their business.
Secondly, they must ensure that change management is monitored among their leadership as a core skill on which promotion is predicated on demonstrating it.
Finally, and most importantly, they stop looking at branding, staff engagement, culture and their stated values as nice to haves, but essential to the firm's survival. They stop talking about these pillars of successful change management as fluffy, but hard edged measures that will ensure the sustainability of the business models to deliver shareholder value.
Change comes everyday, anyone that says otherwise is a kidding themselves. Any business that doesn’t embrace it is on borrowed time.