Managing change in the fast changing world of the 21st requires a broader vision for long-term planning. Specific long-term plans are often out of date by the time that they have been formulated, let alone realized. Change management therefore requires measuring immediate deliverables rather than long term objectives. Goals which are too specific will often crowd out innovative ways of achieving the company’s long term vision.
According to the organizational change management theorist John P Kotter, goals are best achieved when they are broken up into short term wins. The drive for innovation in your company should be similarly divided up into a number of manageable initiatives. Trying to impose wholesale a culture of innovation on a company will typically be unsuccessful. Once short-term goals have been established it is crucial to foster and encourage persistence. Management’s role should be to highlight steps that are being made towards innovation and celebrate them. This reinforces why it is so important to have short-term milestones that can be recognized. Over time employees will notice the recognition that can be gained through innovation.
It is also important to look at the points of interference to innovation within the company and remove these when possible. Often autocratic or overly cautious executives are circumventing innovation. Approval processes are other areas which can stifle innovation. Where possible, these should be streamlined and the implementation of innovation measures should be accelerated. Management must also keep up with emerging trends and understand how their industry is changing, while at the same time, the organization’s end goals must be kept in mind.
Change management necessitates opening up channels of communication and allowing employee-led projects to develop. Ideas that come from frontline employees and middle management should be encouraged and nurtured. This involves creating a culture where open communication and expressing ideas is rewarded. It can also be useful to encourage innovative individuals to be active in other areas of the organization. This can be achieved through the use of virtual teams. Such measures can increase the probability of “cross-pollination” of ideas within the organization.
Employees will often react emotionally when they feel change is being forced upon them. A typical statement about internal processes is that they are performed in a certain fashion because “they have always been done that way”. Overcoming this resistance to innovation involves first understanding why people may be conditioned to think and act in certain ways. Patience and tolerance is often required in order to change entrenched beliefs. Training and recruitment should complement these efforts and accelerate the development of employees who are leading the company’s innovation efforts. In-work support tools – WalkMe is a good example – can provide immediate assistance with complex online tasks to maintain high employee performance during a period of change.
The keys to effective change management which propels innovation is keeping up with developing trends in your industry, not being afraid of experimentation and making decisions, opening up lines of communication and nurturing innovation in your company. In the 21st century the largest risks that companies face is the reluctance by management to take risks at all. By failing small and fast management gains the experience and skills to drive their businesses to an overall successful outcome.