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Constant change becomes ordinary in 2021, but only when managed

The dictionary says that the concept of 'change' may be used for 'making such a difference in a thing that it becomes something else.'
Constant change becomes ordinary in 2021, but only when managed
At the very start of 2021, allow me to make a bold suggestion: Make it the year in which your organisation plans for constant change. Because when managed effectively and proactively as part of the organisation’s core business strategy, the benefits of change have the potential to set up organisations for a prosperous 2021. And even a more resilient 2021. A year in which teams can navigate certainty, and not uncertainty.

I’m of opinion that the phrase ‘a change is as good as a holiday’ is one of the most arguable quotes. And no, I’m not saying never to take a break within the context of wellness. We are all human after all. But, how often after we return from that long-awaited break, we find that we are faced with the same stumbling blocks or challenges we were faced with before said miracle holiday? 

Has the prospect of change after the proverbial holiday been thoroughly investigated by those who quote it? In fact, let’s (literally) take it back to the meaning of change according to the dictionary – the holiday in itself is the wrong strategy when our aim is to effect long-lasting change for that very thing we would like to become something else. 

Organisations can actively find value when planned management of change becomes the norm or the new normal (or even as we have learnt at the end of 2020 – a better normal). Change needs to be part of the strategy in order to create adaptable and agile organisations. Contrast this to how organisations might have viewed change management historically – change should not be added on to the strategy. 

Let’s look at three ways in which we can thread ‘change’ firmly into the core of our organisational strategy to actively find more value in the better normal: 

1. Embrace three-dimensional change 

Reconstitute effective leadership beyond Covid-19 to navigate this new reality. The reason for this is because change in 2021 will be characterised by three dimensions according to the Harvard Business Review. 
  1. Change is perpetual, therefore, occurring all the time in an ongoing way. 
  2. Change is pervasive, meaning that it is unfolding in multiple areas of life at once. 
  3. And, lastly, change is exponential, hence it accelerates at an increasingly rapid rate. 

In saying this, I resonate with Google's chief futurist and noted author Ray Kurzweil in an article where he explains that “the future is widely misunderstood as our forebears expected it to be pretty much like their present, which had been pretty much like their past.” 

Do you see the anomaly with linear thinking?

When leadership is basing future thinking on past thinking it has the potential to trap us firmly in the catch-up stage of the game. Organisations might find themselves in the bottom half of the league – still playing the game, but performing nowhere near the top teams to be able to reach the playoffs. Playing by the rules of perpetual, pervasive and exponential change is a complex and fast game, and should be matched by 3D thinking and change strategies. 

2. Make change part of your organisational culture

When constant change (and the willingness to adapt to change) intrinsically forms part of your organisational culture, something very interesting happens – all management becomes change management. Change is not encountered by negative associations and emotions (as is the case in linear thinking), but instead is embraced by the organisation.

Therefore, the benefit of having a change management culture is clear – when a change is proposed, it is not automatically met with resistance. Instead change on any scale is met with intrigue and with a positively framed mindset. Teams used to a pro-change culture are much more comfortable with ambiguity. As such they have the appetite to see through more change, supported by a cycle of learning, unlearning and learning as new ways of working and systems evolve driven by 3D change These teams are striving to make innovation and improvement a routine instead of an extraordinary once-a-year event. 

3. Improved, long-lasting outcomes

There’s a danger in thinking of ingrained change management – when it’s treated as a strategic and intrinsic part of an organisation’s DNA – as a nice to have. Bluntly said, in an era of exponential change and with Covid-19 still a significant factor in 2021, organisations can no longer perceive change as an add-on to the existing strategy. 

Aligning three-dimensional visionary leadership with an organisational culture that is intrinsically comfortable with change management in order to evolve and adapt faster is the only way to run an organisation or run the very real risk of becoming archaic. It is the only way to reach the playoffs, so to speak, where organisations are able to retain a competitive edge and stay profitable. 

Make this the year in which you do not plan for the extraordinary. Let us plan for the ordinary to be executed well and allow our teams to pilot change plans in different ways. Throughout the year, do not forget to celebrate the small victories and milestones. These smaller actions are loaded with the potential to build a blueprint for agile and cohesive action when bigger change such as a pandemic requires it from every person in the organisation.

11 Jan 2021 09:41


About the author

Francois Kriel is the change management consultant at Kriel & Co