By Mat Jakubowski.
Introducing change is a tough task regardless of what sort of culture is most prominent at a company. It is simply a human nature to treat new ways of performing their everyday tasks with suspicion and caution. Mother Nature has equated us with this instinct a long time ago to adapt to new environments. However, if a company’s culture promotes an open-minded approach, it can certainly speed up the process making it more “digestible” to its teams.
There is a saying that goes:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast, innovation for lunch”
and there is a lot of truth in that.
Tell me the “why”
Company’s culture that allows mistrust can hinder the process of change. In order to effectively facilitate change, professional teams need to have access to the change objectives so there is no element of confusion as to what the change is supposed to bring to the company. This may increase the feeling that the innovation is not going to benefit them but some other employees within the company. It needs to be clear from the get-go that the change is to leverage effectiveness of the whole organisation, and not only the selected professionals. The “Patagonia case study” goes to show that collaborative efforts when it comes to introducing change are vital, while maintain the individual level of creativity. No one wants to lift the change entirely on their shoulders.
What’s the message?
An effective change management program should consider, among other things, ensuring that the strategic management group can concretely communicate the change to employees and is willing to hear out their feedback and suggestions with regards to the new policy and procedures. The “Goodwin case study” proves that a robust management team that was willing to understand the need for change in order to implement it goes a long way. It not only made the whole process speedier but also allowed the employees to make their voices count.
Who’s in, who’s out
Change is an integral part of any company. It allows them to expand, create new job opportunities, new products, and appeal to new clients. The problem is when half of the team accepts the change and the other half does not. In that case I believe that there is something to be done on the communication front, and clearly there are benefits of the change since part of the them reacted positively, but on the other hand, these benefits were not communicated to some of the team members effectively, or maybe it was poorly timed. That makes some of team members frustrated as usually change needs to be adopted by a significant number of users for it to make sense. Having a number of change-skeptics can hinder the process and make the change pointless. That is why introducing change needs to have a very well though-out narrative understandable by all (or at least the majority), not just the few.
Take me to your leader
The leadership is also crucial in all of this. A leader that is open to invest their time and money but more importantly that allows their team to focus on innovation initiatives during working hours - wins. Even the most tech-savvy and creative team members will not be able to achieve much in the innovation space without a buy-in from their high-level leadership; their enthusiasm will fade away eventually. Also, innovation being valued by a leader will inevitably inspire other sectors of the organisation to implement modern ways of working. If the leader is supporting the change the temptation to refuse it is getting so much smaller.
Fail fast, raise faster
Last but not least, regardless of the type of innovation project failing fast (and learning concrete lessons) is good. Not only a team can avoid a detrimental impact of an ill-managed project (that will probably bring little to no value) but also it has a great go at making it right the second time round. Think about it, when an innovation project does not go as planned, because of some problems described above (equals, it fails), it does not mean that it cannot be resurrected in another form in the future. This time round perhaps involving the leadership from the start, starting with a clear “why” or communication the change value more transparently across teams. Whatever it is, projects can (and should be) re-introduced if the value that can be gained outweights the potential problems that pop up along the way. The re-introduction should focus on avoiding making the same mistakes – that is why having a “lessons learned log” is such a treat!
About the Author Mat has decided to leave the traditional legal path to pursue his passion in Legal Tech. In the past Mat used to work as an in-house for an international retail company in London, as well as, for Thomson Reuters and other legal solution companies, and more recently, as an innovation team lead at Dentons.
These experiences have given Mat a unique blend of legal and technical expertise needed to understand the bread and butter of lawyer’s work (and how it can be simplified).
On these foundations, Mat has decided to build his legal tech consultancy offering bringing legal change that adds value.