This article presents a very brief overview of change – what it is, how we must plan for it, implement, measure and control, and report it. The word change is enigmatic in its etiology, often provoking fear in some people, yet conjuring a feeling of hope in others. I wish to review a few modern practices of change specifically within businesses, and the organizations that run these businesses.
Why change often becomes inevitable
A couple of years ago, a colleague at work expressed to me how much he resented management’s directive that junior managers must learn about project management and to become certified in it within six months. At the time, the corporation recognizing its own strategic future competitiveness in the IT Consulting practice domain needed to have an army of trained and professionally certified project managers that would operate this practice. Well, my friend decided to take an early retirement from the company because he did not want to learn any other new knowledge. Suffice to say that while the organization moved forward with its initiative to train willing employees, my friend move south to become a farmer!
What is the moral of this story? Here.
Change is that process that brings an individual, or the organization into new positions of strength, capability, market share – even domination, and sustainable financial profiles. When organizational leadership takes its role seriously in predicting industry and market shifts, organizing resources and productive capacities to attain SMART objectives, controlling its internal dynamics – primarily costs, and communicating its goals and objectives clearly so that organizational buy-in and support becomes overwhelming, then, change would have been successful.
To answer the question why change is inevitable, let me direct the question to Marshall Goldsmith, the author of the book; ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ (2007). His abbreviated response is; “the more we are committed to believing that something is true, the less likely we are to believe that its opposite is true…” (page 24). The cognitive dissonance premise of that quote is helpful to understand the dynamics of why some organizations simply become irrelevant in the marketplace and are overtaken through mergers, acquisitions, or succumb to irrelevance, obsolescence, and death.
Leading the Change
As we mentioned above, change is enigmatic. This suggests that most successful changes within the organization often become realities where leadership plays its assigned roles. An organization may be forced to make changes – within its internal environments or be confronted with dire consequences in the marketplace. On the other hand, organizations do extremely well when the anticipated changes are the results of predicted futures, forward-looking business environmental shifts that are preemptive or pro-active in nature, well-articulated by the leadership and supported by stakeholders. No organization today can claim ignorance or lack of awareness of shifting dynamics within its industry. In this information-driven paradigm, technology empowers us to have access to useful data that can inform us about emerging forces. Granted, making decisions for the organization is not always easy. That is why executives are handsomely compensated when results of policy changes for example produce increased revenues, radically lowers cost assignments, increase quality of its products in the market, etc. review The acronym PESTEL comes to mind – Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal factors are external to the organization, but influence how leadership should direct its internal environments, namely, policies, cultural behaviors, resources, and value propositions to make the changes.
Changes at the Virginia International University (VIU) – a case in point
Depending on the situation, most organizations implement changes either in phases, or wholesomely. While some changes only target policies, processes and operations, systemic changes are surgical in nature, the goal of which is to remove deep-rooted organizational, community or social behavior patterns. The challenges for initiating, planning, and executing a change management initiative for the business, the organization, or the individual, are numerous. Most of us pay lip service to this idea and would rather not be bothered. Suffice to say that not all changes are guaranteed to succeed or be permanent and never needing continuous review and additional effort. Change is continuous and not a one-time gig.
Such is the situation at VIU. Having come to a ‘moment of truth’ about its future as a viable center of academic excellence within the industry, the leadership now pursues over-arching initiatives that touch every branch of its corporate identity including the following;
- An overhaul of its executive branch; this promises a more forward-looking leadership group with helpful partnerships across blended interests.
- Concentrate its academic programs portfolio to serve business and industry sectors more closely. This will facilitate quicker job placements for students upon graduation.
- Establish new performance standards for its academic staff; develop mechanisms to conduct assessment procedures more regularly for faculty and ensure overall positive campus experience for students.
Talk is cheap, but VIU is moving ahead of its peers by its commitment to satisfying all compliance requirements of its accreditors, reassuring its stakeholders that recovery from prior lapses is in the distant past.