Recently, there are few greater examples of a business that has failed to embrace the process of change effectively. What is clear is that no business is immune from the need to move with the times. On a daily basis, I have seen though my work as a consultant the devastating effect mismanagement of change has on a business, its staff, its service and ultimately, its turnover.
The most complex part of any change (and the part most often overlooked) is managing stakeholders reactions and expectations. Naturally, at the mere mention of change, initial thoughts seem always to be “how will this affect me?” Many staff have an overwhelming instinct to protect their jobs whatever the cost. This fear of losses is often the biggest hurdle to overcome, it leads to the rumour mill going into overdrive, mis-information and an ‘us and them’ culture being created. One thing we can be sure of is that all companies need to be prepared, willing and able to change. Those who fail in this quest will simply not survive.
So what is the answer? Firstly, stakeholders need to embrace modernisation as opposed to fearing it. They need to ask themselves “how can this be beneficial?” Put bluntly, there will be some for whom there is no advantage and their options I’m sure will be very clear. People need to understand that as sad as it is, the days of a real ‘job for life’ are as a rare as a penny black. Secondly, communication is key. The noticeable absence of Adam Crozier throughout the Royal Mail fiasco did nothing to boost confidence in the organisation. In any company, people want to understand what is happening and seek reassurance from the person at the top of the tree. It is fundamental that management are seen not to shy away from any problems and tackle them head-on out of respect for the workforce.
Despite the initial hardship, the biggest victim in all of this long term is the tens of thousands of Royal Mail staff themselves. By striking to resist change, they are ultimately loading their own gun to deliver themselves to a commercial graveyard. Yes, management have to take responsibility for not implementing a more structured form of change over a longer period but ultimately companies that don’t evolve will simply die.