The world of business is always evolving. Over the past few years alone, we have experienced many examples of this, from the sudden transition to remote work, to increased implementation and dependence upon Artificial Intelligence. Aside from the general changes that occur in the business world, each individual business must deal with organizational changes unique to them or their specific market. Change is the only constant any of us should expect and as such, we must be able to properly handle it and embrace it's inevitability.
These constant changes that occur, coupled with the general tasks and goals of a business, can often lead to frustration, exhaustion, and burn out for members of the organization. There is often a lack of readiness to change. When faced with it, many people see change as a threat and enter a state of survival mode. They become anxious and stressed. This may cause them to feel overwhelmed and react emotionally, or they may turn to rigidity and shut down new ideas in favor of the status quo. They believe their viewpoint to be correct and are unable to see differing perspectives. In turn, they remain stressed and stuck in their ways as their organization struggles to keep up with the market and any other changes in the world. This is not only bad for businesses, but also for the health of an organization’s employees. Stanford researchers found that workplace stressors are a contributing factor to between 5% and 8% of annual healthcare costs in the United States and more than 120,000 deaths.
An organization unprepared for change always hits a wall eventually. They encounter a change or problem that causes them to flounder as they attempt to push on. For example, when the pandemic hit, some companies grew exponentially due to the services they provided and the demand for them while people were sheltering in place. However, many of them were unprepared for this sudden large-scale demand and dealt with employees being overworked and burnt out, supply chain issues, insufficient resources, and more. Imagine if they had been prepared for a sudden surge in customers and demand. They would have thrived during this time of uncertainty and chaos.
The businesses that deal with changes successfully and remain at the forefront of their market usually excel in organizational change management. Their members recognize that change is the only constant they can expect when growing and running their business. In her article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “A Futurist’s Guide to Preparing Your Company for Constant Change”, April Rinne states “The time to prepare for change is not when it hits. It’s before it hits, and during times of relative calm.” This what successful organizations do. As April says, the future is unpredictable and unknowable, but if an organization is prepared for many possible outcomes, they have a far greater likelihood to survive and thrive as changes occur.
The mindset of each member of an organization needs to evolve as well. Instead of seeing change as a threat and something to be feared, members must approach it from a state of courage. This keeps them out of survival mode and allows them to see different perspectives when dealing with the organizational changes they face. Thus, change is implemented and handled effectively and efficiently. Stress levels go down and people are healthier and happier in their work. This is the ideal state to be in.
So how do we achieve this ideal? Change readiness is the essential ingredient. It determines your ability to adapt and innovate when faced with any changes that may occur. If you are ready for change, you approach it with a healthy and courageous mindset. You are more likely to make good choices that benefit your organization rather than continue spinning your wheels in an unproductive cycle. The proper preparation is in place to combat changes that could potentially harm your business. Even when unprecedented changes occur, you adapt quickly. Problem-solving, creativity, and innovation are nurtured, both between employees and within each individual. This leads to continued growth and success for you and your organization. This is organizational change management at it's highest level.
In order to build and improve upon your change readiness, you need to know where you’re starting from. To learn how ready you are for change, take our Change Readiness Assessment here. It shows you how you generally deal with change and how to improve upon that level.
Change is a constant unknown in our lives, but it doesn’t have to be scary. If you are ready and prepared for it, you may even find you start to enjoy it. Once you do that, you begin to see change not as a problem, but as an opportunity.