My high school year book proudly declares “We survived change!” Interstate, international, countless local moves and a couple of career changes later, I still agree.
In business, as in life, we experience highs and lows. Economies fluctuate, people come and go. Through our professional networks we make lasting relationships, others are forgotten, or remembered for all the wrong reasons.
I had the experience of living and working in London almost ten years ago. If moving to another country, finding work in a very different employment market and the cultural differences of one of the most diverse cities in the world were not enough, I took a role in an organisational change team during a period when my employer, Transport for London (TfL), was undergoing a massive internal change. With the Human Resources department where I worked moving to a shared services model that incorporated the previous disparate businesses of rail, road, bus and ferry, it was certainly an exciting time to come on board.
Change is a fact of life. It’s a constant, and once you become aware of it, it never goes away.
One of my earliest memories is moving house. It was a big deal at the time, having lived in the same suburb, grown up with the neighbours, and become familiar with the local street names for about ten years. I had to learn all of these things again. Moving house is a lot like changing jobs. You have to learn the names of your new workmates, find your way around the office, get to know who the go-to people are and absorb the culture of the organisation. Part of the induction process may be to buddy you up with a colleague or involve a mentoring program with a manager. All of which are designed to make the change process easier, but it never really stops.
Not everyone copes well with change. In its Enabling Organizational Change Through Strategic Initiatives, March 2014 PMI reports “the reality is that change is unavoidable, organizations need to resolve how to successfully adapt and sustain change.” It says those companies with the key people strategically aligned to champion the business goals through a period of change will achieve it. To succeed, therefore, a business not only needs buy-in from key stakeholders, but to gather supporters from floor level to the boardroom. In fact the report observe millions (USD $149 per $1B spent, or approximately 15%) are lost on failed or ineffective change initiatives, with 56% due to lack of leadership and 59% owing to poor communication. According to the research, only 18% of organisations are highly effective change managers.
PMI says, “In today’s volatile environment, with the rate of change accelerating, organizations that successfully manage strategic initiatives save more money and are poised to gain an advantage over their competitors.” Putting aside the intended benefits and other motivators for organisational change, contributors to a successful change management program include well-defined milestones, commitment from senior management and executive sponsors, as well as staff having the opportunity to be involved in the process, taking ownership and sharing accountability.
Of course, when my working holiday visa expired and my contract with TfL ended, relocating back to Australia brought a whole new set of challenges, which anyone who has had the good fortune of being an expat will attest to, can be harder than going in the first place.
What’s your experience of change @work?