I often use the human body as an example of what happens in change programmes. Imagine, if you will, the challenge we have in inserting something foreign or alien into the human body. Typically transplant patients face a significant challenge: organ rejection.
Our bodies’ immune systems are naturally designed to do battle with “foreign invaders.”
Organisational culture can replicate our immune systems in their reactions to foreign objects. For organ transplant patients, the normally protective immune response can threaten the longevity and function of the transplanted organ. We need to suppress the rejection or deal with the alienation, as one part needs to integrate and enhance the whole system. Organ transplant patients must take immunosuppressive or anti-rejection medication to prevent the immune system from fighting against the new, transplanted organ. Similarly in organisations, we find that the organisational culture and climate can resist or reject the change programme. Sometimes they are hard wired to deal with foreign change invaders. Sometimes they have seen the programmes launched before with similar fanfare and communication only for it to become another fad or management whim. Sometimes there is just a plain lack of trust, or leadership, terminal illness or incompetence that you are going further into the darkness with no hope of success.
Change initiatives and transformational journeys cannot be ad hoc programmes and must be key strategic moves. Moves that understand the DNA of the business, the health thermometer rating of its organs, the change readiness of its mind-set, the trust scorecard of its leaders and be able to offer a synergised, integrated and aligned solution that builds in the need for learning, unlearning and relearning. These along with truly transformational building blocks that are anchored in trust, engagement, inclusiveness, and a real behavioural and mind-set shift, will lead to a higher value based culture.
I agree, difficult, but not impossible. Why take the pain? Well if the pace of change is happening faster outside your organisation than in it, then you will surely die. It is no longer optional to stand still, and only those who master the science, art and behaviour of change will survive.