The concept of radical change came to us having worked over the past 15 to 20 years with large, small, and medium sized businesses, grappling with unprecedented change and new market conditions. What we realised very quickly is that old methods of change just weren’t working. We found them very theoretical and tick-box exercise orientated. And whilst they worked really well in the industrial age and somewhat well in the information age, when it came to applying these traditional approaches in this hyper-connected world we now live in, things started to fall apart.
With people having more access to democratised technology that’s more affordable than ever before, we as both consumers and employees in any market are a lot more discerning than we were, say 5 to 10 years ago.
The previous industrial ages were defined by macro forces which had a strong focus on top-down leadership and the bottom line (profit). This was prevalent in the information age and, of course, in the industrial age as a primary focus for leadership and change. And what that meant for change management was either a top-down experience where leaders told you how to change and you had no choice in the matter, with the focus of change centring around a financial decision or a business case. And as a result, change management would just be a tick in a box exercise or a nice to have. We found a lot of appetite for very technical change that was focused on the transactional and the “doing” (e.g. do this training, sign that form, fill out this stakeholder spreadsheet). And it was very focused around cookie-cutter templates.
And although thinking back to how power dynamics have evolved in the past century, this top-down leadership pressure is still quite prevalent for clients still stuck in the mindset of the information age, and some even still in the industrial age. To this day, as a lot of our clients are still grappling to move forward into this new future and this new age. And as this new age of imagination and hyper-connectedness comes into play, we are seeing a lot more pressure on businesses and leadership teams to consider their ecological impacts. And by ecological impacts, we mean that if you make a decision or you roll out change, it is important to ask yourself a few key questions.
- What does this mean for your customer?
- And what is the impact?
- What does this mean for your employees?
- And the community in which you operate?
Because these days, most people have prominent social media accounts and access to technology, and can, if they’re badly impacted, really harness the power of the mob and cause a huge ruckus about it. These days, a key focus is impact on the planet, the environment, and the community from a sustainability perspective. We’ve seen this in the last few years become a driving force, and not simply just a ‘good brand decision’ in how organisations roll out change.
Another macro focus is a huge focus on human skills as robotics, artificial intelligence, and a lot of the mixed reality experiences that make data capture and work so much easier and better. The focus is less on technical skills as a change manager, but more on your skills as a human being to facilitate change, engage and connect with others. And of course, there is a huge driving force to harness the power of the collective given the opportunity that technology provides us to do so. We’ve seen many fantastic brands use crowdsourcing, engaging directly with customers and employees and creative a two-way feedback loop for better experiences and ideation. Harnessing the collective power of employees, communities, as well as customers and asking them directly for input is definitely a force that cannot be ignored. Companies that are succeeding in this day and age utilise technology, as well as human-centered design to drive group thinking within and without.
A good example is Kickstarter, whose culture and business model is defined by this, applying crowd sourcing inside and out. These are the companies we choose and prefer to work with as they are making some of the biggest differences on the planet.
What does this mean for a change manager?
We came up with the term Radical Change, bringing these two powerful macro forces together. Respecting top-down leadership and bottom-line and understanding that we do run projects in quite a systematic way. And also bringing together that outside-in, ecological thinking whilst harnessing the power of the collective with human-centered design with a strong focus on the human experience and valuing the human skills of change. I am sure you can agree that we as change managers have a lot of work to do in polishing up on our human skills for this new age…our team certainly did.
So, what this means for the change management industry is that we can no longer hold or hang our laurels on technical change management skills and theoretical knowledge. We need to start expanding ourselves as change makers, whether you’re a project manager, a Business Analyst, a full-blown communication, learning or change consultant. It’s important for us to start harnessing design thinking because that helps us consider ecological, 360 impacts and start putting people back at the centre of all that we do. Most importantly, it brings that collective power of ideation in a systemic way so that we can help leaders through unprecedented change into 2021 and beyond!
So, it’s not just about what we do as change managers and change makers, it’s how we do it and how we engage with the people and organisations we serve. This is becoming a lot more important within the organisations as technology simply makes robotic jobs easier and easier.
At Earth2Mars, we often tell our clients that if your job feels robotic, it probably won’t exist in the next five years. And the same goes for change practitioners. If you are doing tick box exercises, data capture, or something similar in your change role, it’s time to start upgrading so you can shift from surviving to thriving in the new age of imagination and hyper-connectedness. Incorporate your creative design thinking for the age of creativity, and really focus on your human skills and dynamics so that you can bring people along a journey, effectively and efficiently.