Someone recently told me that he keeps his contacts list on a social networking site, so that when he wants to find somebody, their current details are easily available. I keep my contacts list in Outlook and on my mobile phone. Thinking about contacts brought to mind wipe clean Filofaxes, Rolodex address cards and the pace of change.
These days, technological change gets faster all of the time and we embrace it. We want to be the first to own new gadgets and show them to our friends. We can contact and be contacted throughout the day, wherever we are – we can be in a supermarket on a conference call, we can be on-site logging data into a remote system, we can be watching a film sitting on a train or on a beach checking emails whilst reading a book on the kindle. Why takes a camera on holiday now when you can take all your photos on your phone?
However, people are selective in their attitudes towards change. Resistance to organisational change is still the common default position. So why do people who proudly show their holiday snaps on their iphone want to hold onto their Rolodex address cards at work?
For some, it is fear of redundancy and that the new job requirements will expose their inability to perform at the required level. An example of this is production of monthly management accounts. In the days when information extraction was mostly manual, the emphasis was on the actual production of the management accounts to present them within the required deadlines whereas now that the process is largely automated, the emphasis had moved to investigating variances and forecasting, requiring a different skill set.
My first large change management project was in the late 1980s, when I was tasked with developing interbusiness contracting at the Post Office from an outline Board initiative. This was a huge cultural change that was initially met with disbelief. However, implementing the infrastructure to measure costs and monitor performance brought an awareness that made managers challenge the status quo and find better ways of doing things.
I have led numerous change management projects since then, most of which are brought about by necessity, usually to cut costs. Experience has demonstrated that the keys to successful change management are leadership, openness and communication. The Senior Management Team must own the change and agree on the goals, whether they are cost reduction, restructuring, organisational emphasis or a combination of these and including any potential change affecting themselves or their directorates. Change must be considered with an open mind, not deciding on a new structure without considering other options. The decision to change and reasons why must be communicated throughout the organisation and staff must be offered alternative contacts outside their line management structure with whom to discuss their concerns and ideas. A commitment to training staff whose roles change can reap rewards and offer comfort and help to alleviate concerns.
Of course, change does not stand still and a culture of continuous improvement is required to conquer the fear, apprehension and cost of restructuring every two to three years. Focus on the positives and develop a culture where improvement and challenge are welcomed.