In the contemporary world, to be excellent, we have to change, change continually and be able to change quickly. It isn’t enough just to endure. Because external circumstances have shifted so much in recent decades, we may have seen many organizations try to change – and fail. Most organisations are not designed to change, but to maintain existing routines. Guiding change is hard. Even as we try to predict and plan for the future, weare also under pressure to maintain current operations and achievements.
Leaders must begin to see themselves as organisational architects instead of rock star, charismatic visionary types. Organisations already may have changed once or twice successfully, but it probably didn’t get any better at the process of changing. That’s because organisations don’t focus on change as the norm that it has become. Instead, they change, and then stop changing, and later are faced with having to change again. They try to find and freeze a new status quo by institutionalising their best practices. Instead, they must be built to change. This means switching from accenting specific best practices – no matter how genuinely good they may be – and, instead, focusing on managing the process of constant change.
All organisations are experiencing a business environment characterized by rapid change. This is not news to most people – their lives have changed because of it. Several factors determine how well an organisation adapts to this new orientation. In a change-based economy, employees are worth more than physical or financial assets. If we lose them, we lose the knowledge we dearly need.
Change comes in many forms. Some changes are “evolutionary,” in that an organisation changes naturally and incrementally in response to events. Strategic reorientation, that is, the modification of existing strategies, is a harder type of change. But, the challenges of “transformational change” dwarf other difficulties. These changes occur when we bring new products or techniques into play, perhaps impelled by the latest “disruptive technologies.”
Identity is reflected in an organisation’s culture – a set of values and beliefs about how to see the world, solve problems and succeed – and image – how the outside world views the firm. An organisation is likely to handle change badly because we probably designed it for stability, not flexibility. Actually, stability is good – we need it for short-term success – but it fights change. During disruptive change, people may seek charismatic leaders they hope will guide the company through tough times.