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CHANGE: BUILDING RELEVANCE and RESILIENCE FOR THE FUTURE

Despite being constantly told that we need to change and that change is inevitable, our first response isn’t always immediate acknowledgement and enthusiastic acceptance. The vast number of reports being published about change needed in the London market can make unsettling reading. Considering the implications for individual businesses, and realising the changes required are more transformation than modification, can be daunting even for the most experienced management teams.

The scale and pace of change can be overwhelming, which is why many take a wait-and-see approach, watching how larger companies will respond. Another common response of management teams, once convinced of the need for change, is to hire consultants to define the problem. Both responses are logical and understandable but, after 20 years of helping businesses deliver change, I can say categorically that neither serve businesses well in ensuring relevance and resilience for the future.

While the first response might appear prudent and gain easy acceptance among board members, paralysis is not a strategy. Hiring consultants to define problems does not use precious time or resources well as middle managers are often only too aware and are grappling with them on a daily basis. Effectively it’s outsourcing the problem and signifies that management are not willing or engaged with sufficiently meaningful depth. This often leads to staff being handed a solution, worked out between managers and consultants, and told to implement it. This is not effective as staff have not been involved, which, when added to the requirement to deliver the project on top of their day jobs, can breed resentment.

Achieving absolute alignment for the corporate vision across the entire the business, from the executive team right through to junior staff, is essential. As with the collectivist notion ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, truly aligned companies succeed where misaligned companies struggle. It is all too easily overlooked but, to achieve alignment and implement lasting positive change, staff behaviour and culture must be a core consideration. It is vital to its success and that of the company in future. Managing staff expectations and resistance after the plan has been devised and the IT system purchased is what often happens but it should be the reverse. Engaging with staff early will help define problems and issues faster and more cheaply than external consultants. It will make them feel valued and they will be more likely to help drive change than resist it.

To successfully change a business and be effective agents of change, managers need to change themselves by accepting that change is a continuous process, not a one-off project. This change mindset is essential and leadership teams must lead by example if they are to instil this vital ingredient in staff company wide. Setting realistic timing expectations is also essential to introducing lasting change. While moving with speed and clarity may be right in some aspects of managing an organisation, fundamentally changing it requires realistic assessment of the speed at which staff can travel. This is not only to ensure staff remain on board but, by seeking their input and ideas early, this helps enlist buy-in to the vision and their help to drive the business toward its goals.

To define what kind of change is needed then build a framework capable of delivering it comes down to asking the right questions, as below, which will be closely considered in my next blog.

By Parminder Kaur, Director Consulting, Advent Insurance Management