Change: The only guarantee in Technology, Marketing and Media
As Bob Dylan once said, “The Times They are a Changin”. I suppose that has always been true in technology, marketing and media but I would argue that today the ability to embrace and manage change has never been more necessary. With new technology platforms to figure out, content production and consumption habits being turned on their head due to developments in web and mobile penetration and business models that have supported industries for decades crumbling it is a confusing world out there for many organisations and individuals.
That is why I have never understood the lack of debate around the importance of change management in technology, marketing and media. All of us that inhabit the digital bubble are quick to focus on new platforms and the tactics needed to take advantage of these. However one factor I think that we should spend more time investigating is how both individuals and organisations manage and lead the change needed to take advantage of new technologies, markets and consumer habits.
We are living in a world convergence. Media is converging as detailed by Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang, technology is both driving and responding to this convergence and as a result organisational talent is converging, perhaps the most painful and difficult change of all. This trend will continue over the next few years and in order for both individuals and organisations to effectively lead this change some solid experience and training in change management will be needed to successfully negotiate this transition.
Some organisations and individuals will choose, or market conditions will dictate revolutionary change others will take the more gentle evolutionary approach. Either way I think its useful for all to look towards Dr John Kotter and his classic 8 Step approach to leading change for some valuable advice.
Step 1 – Establish a Sense of Urgency
Probably the most difficult phase but vital to help others see the need for change. There are both positive and negative ways to do this but some of the best people I have experienced doing this have the ability to successfully paint the doomsday or burning platform scenario
Step 2 – Create a guiding Coalition
Key here is to assemble a group with enough power to lead the change and for them to work as a group. Successful organisational change is never achieved individually.
Step 3 – Develop a Change Vision
Lots of hyperbole is written about visionary people and companies. Vision is vitally important in change and the better you can be at successfully painting the picture of where you want to get to and equally importantly how you intend to get there the closer you are to success.
Step 4 – Communicate the Vision
Never has there been more ways to communicate. Digital channels offer speed and breath and need to be used well but don’t underestimate the power of face to face interactions. This is often where you finally achieve understanding and acceptance of both the vision and the strategy or sometimes more importantly uncover the obstacles to change.
Step 5 – Empower Action and Remove Obstacles
Empower the change advocates, encourage non traditional thinking and remove obstacles, systems and structures that are preventing the change process.
Step 6 – Generate Short Term Wins
Everybody in business is usually good at this. The significance of these wins will always be debated but it is important to plan for these, make them visible and reward individuals involved in achieving these. It amazing how important momentum is in leading successful change.
Step 7 – Build on the Change
Use the momentum and increased credibility generated by these quick wins to change systems, processes and policies to achieve the vision. Also ensure people are promoted and developed that can implement the vision and now is the time for other projects to started promoted by the original change effort.
Step 8 – Embed Change into Culture
Along with the first stage this is often the hardest to achieve as embedding new behaviours and associating them with organisational success is always a challenge. But for longterm success this is key and the important thing to remember is that people are the bearers of culture. Processes, systems and policies will get get you so far but you human capital are the only ones that will deliver true success.
So there you have it. For startups and early stage companies this is pretty easy as much of their entire existence can be categorised as an unproven change process. This is why they often have an advantage over more well funded, resourced and mature organisations. Perhaps its most difficult in organisations that have had considerable success over many years with a tried and tested formula that now needs changing. Whatever the case effective knowledge of leading and implementing change will be key in us all transforming both ourselves and the organisations we work with and for.
(Image via Matt Brown http://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/3163571645/)