Much has changed in the practice of Organizational Change Management (OCM) in recent years. Organizational change has become even more rapid, complex and continuous. Change Management practitioners need to step up our game to keep pace. We need to think beyond Change Readiness to Change Agility.
Pre-pandemic, Change Practitioners were mostly focused on Change Readiness and preparing groups that were affected by specific transformation initiatives. Things have changed significantly since then requiring us to broaden our focus due to the influence of multiple recent workforce trends:
- Remote work has accelerated, creating challenges with team cohesion, communication and productivity in an ever-increasing distributed work environment.
- The drive towards more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces has created a greater awareness of the need to manage cultural differences, address biases and create a sense of belonging for all employees no matter the type of change.
- The pace of digital transformations has ramped up, especially digitization and automation of operations. This creates challenges around simultaneous implementation of modern technologies, the need to manage an influx of data and upskilling employees to work with the new tools.
- There’s a move towards creating a unified and harmonious employee experience. Organizations are recognizing that all change efforts, whether they are Cloud migration or Agile adoption, impact the entire ecosystem and its people.
We Change Practitioners can no longer focus on just our initiatives; we need to take these additional factors into account in our planning. We have to be aware of the interdependencies and impacts of other enterprise and digital efforts on our Stakeholders. We have to take a holistic approach to change and be more inclusive and broader in our outreach.
What is Change Agility?
Change Agility refers to an organization's ability to adapt quickly and effectively to new circumstances, to anticipate and respond to emerging trends and embrace new opportunities. It involves being able to plan and implement changes in a timely and efficient manner, while minimizing disruption and risk.
“Agility is the ability to adapt and respond to change … agile organizations view change as an opportunity, not a threat.”
Change Agility requires a mix of strategic foresight, operational flexibility and a willingness to experiment and take calculated risks. Organizations that are highly Change Agile are better positioned to respond quickly and effectively to fluctuating market conditions and customer needs.
How does Change Agility compare to Change Readiness?
Most OCM efforts focus on Change Readiness, preparing an organization for a specific change. However, with the increasing pace and complexity of changes, the focus of OCM must shift to responding quickly and effectively to any change.
While Change Readiness ensures that an organization is prepared to implement a proposed change with an assurance of high adoption rates, Change Agility ensures that the organization sees change as an open, continuous process and is prepared to pivot with changing needs.
A good analogy to differentiate between Change Readiness and Change Agility – Change Readiness is like training for a 5K run, while Change Agility is about embracing fitness as a lifestyle. Both are important for successful OCM. A Couch to 5K program can prepare us for an event, but a healthy diet and regular exercise ensures that we are prepared to take on a variety of physical challenges.
What role does OCM play in facilitating Change Agility?
OCM provides the framework, tools, and processes needed to effectively manage and implement change within an organization. It can facilitate Change Agility by:
- Developing foundational change capabilities: OCM helps develop the foundational skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to manage and implement any change. This includes understanding the change landscape, understanding Stakeholder personas, developing Stakeholder engagement strategies and establishing communication channels and training programs.
- Aligning change initiatives with strategy: Through OCM there is a greater awareness of the alignment of changes with the organization's strategic objectives. OCM ensures that changes are implemented in a way that supports the organization's overall goals and values.
- Identifying and managing risk: OCM identifies potential sources of resistance to change and develops strategies to mitigate these risks. These include structural and systemic risks associated with any change, such as disruption to operations, dips in employee morale and loss of productivity.
- Continuously improving processes: OCM establishes feedback loops and networks that enable continuous improvement and optimization of processes. This ensures that the organization is continuously gathering and responding to ideas and opportunities, and evolving and adapting to changing conditions.
- Creating a culture of change: Finally, OCM helps foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement where change is seen as a normal and necessary part of doing business. This creates an environment where employees are more receptive to change and more willing to embrace new ideas and approaches.
Change Management practices are changing in response to the rapid, complex and ongoing nature of change in today’s environment. Change Agility is essential to your organization’s ability to quickly recognize and react to changes. Through effective OCM practices, organizations can develop the Change Agility needed to respond swiftly and effectively to changes in markets, competitors, products and customer needs. This, in turn, makes your organization more resilient and Agile.