Recently, I was in a discussion with an executive manager from a €2-billion manufacturing company, who is responsible for a major transformation process in their service department on building up the capabilities of their staff and driving bottom-up change. The discussion made it clear to me that the rapidly changing society we live in is creating more and more of a struggle in this area for senior and executive management. They now face in their organisations a spread of generations which have very different views on experience, motivation, entrepreneurship, change adaptation and loyalty.
The challenge is that nowadays, telling people what to do differently doesn’t always lead to the desired outcome, even when they’re supported by all kinds of tools. On the other hand, we’ve realized that only working with ‘self-steering teams’ isn’t going to work either. We need to find the right balance between telling, asking, pushing and pulling. In that debate, the pertinent question “Do you want to change?” comes up, but is more often than not directly followed by the challenge “But why?”.
Realizing that this is now the most common response to a change proposal, it gives you some perspective for a new approach.
Bottom-up change: People are willing to learn new things
However, various studies point out that people in general are willing to accept change when the ‘Why’ is clear and they know what they will gain from it, even though this approach is still relying on the overall negative approach of “imposed change”.
However, the opposite of negative is positive, so we’re looking for the positive approach. I truly believe, and our research ("Adapt or Die") shows, that if you ask someone if he/she wants to learn new skills so he can do new things that enable him to excel in the new business, he will usually respond positively. Ask him how he can contribute to the proposed change and he will most likely bring fresh, valuable ideas to the table, bottom-up. He won’t fear it and see it as a change any more but as a positive step forward. Our research "Adapt or Die") also shows that once this behaviour starts and people see the difference in attitude, this positive approach spreads quickly!
Does that mean all change comes bottom-up? No, the bottom-line is that if you approach people in the right way and you create a working environment which truly supports them, you will be positively surprised how a sustainable change can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time. At the same time, you’ll discover people’s full potential, and maybe find they start driving innovation that you didn’t dream was possible.
The 4 winning habits
To support our work, we have recently finished a significant research programme studying how successful companies succeed at continuous change. The results are now out, and as you’ll see we have uncovered 4 Winning Habits that will enable you to build a positive and forward-looking environment capable of sustainable adaptation:
The organisation has a shared, explicit and compelling view on its mission and future state, which addresses people's minds and hearts.
The organisation has a strong practice of ongoing dialogues at and across all levels and functions in a sustainable way.
The organisation has top-down and bottom-up decision-making on strategic, tactical and operational matters.
The organisation regularly explores potential changes and trends, new threats and opportunities. It prepares adequate measures and strategies to respond to these potential changes and trends.
These 4 habits will encourage teams to positively seek out innovation and change themselves. You will discover your people can drive the changes needed to respond to market opportunities and threats. Instead of being resistant to changes you propose, they will be the ones creating it. And once the habits are part of the culture, change will take care of itself.
If you want to discover how well your company is performing then try out the Momentum Scorecard from moreMomentum and see how you compare to others across industries.