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/)

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5 Comments »

  1. Interesting article Jono – and I commend you on your new blog. I agree that CM should be a fundamental capability within all C21 organisations; especially TMTs. I think however the CM discipline has advanced past Kotter ‘s 8 steps. For my 2 cents Kotter built on Elisabeth-Kubler Ross’ work which focused on the human experience of how individuals internalized change. He added an organization perspective to the human experience of change. But today I contend that we are, or should be, entering a new era of CM; one where CM becomes part of the company’s DNA built on a project by project basis. Building organisational capabilities.

    • Thanks Scott. Agree with you 100% on this. Think Kotter himself has acknowledged that things had moved on a bit since he first introduced the 8 stages model with his reworking of it in his Accelerate piece in HBR in 2012 – which focused on accelerators and networks but still with the 8 stages. For me these stages were always working concurrently and today the first and last stage are still extremely relevant. The creation of urgency is more important than ever before but it needs to go faster and deeper than ever. The embedding of any change into the culture is also key but for me the development of a culture at ease with constant change is needed in many organisations today. Hope Oz is treating you well Sir.

    • Just keep publishing quality content properly tagged and the the search engines will find you. Write as if Google, Facebook and Linkedin did not exist. If its relevant to a engaged audience it will be found… good luck.

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