We are about to embark on a possible house move. After 13 years of living in our Victorian terrace in Brighton, we have decided it's time for a change. “Totally out of my comfort zone” was how my husband described his thoughts on moving to a friend. He doesn’t like change. My kids are worried about being further away from their mates. They don’t like change.
On another note, a friend of mine recommended reading Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith about behavioural change – which is brilliant and if you haven’t read it, it is definitely one for your reading list. While chatting to a friend about the book, she told me about a colleague of hers who undertakes change workshops and asks people to spend two minutes concentrating on each other’s appearance. They were then asked to change something about their appearance and reface each other three times in a row. Out of all the participants there was only one person who added something to their appearance, everyone else took something away. Why? Because for many of us change is equated with the loss of something, not the addition.
Which is why change feels scary. Losing what you know and replacing it with the unknown on a personal level is hard, but normally we undertake these changes as we want to be in a better place and believe that by acting differently, we might be able to improve ourselves or our lives.
On a business level, change often equals fear of the unknown, risk. Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric from 1981-2001 in his book on Leadership introduces the first chapter with the sentence “Too many managers fear change.” Fear risk of trying something different. However, staying still also often means risk. Risk of watching your competitors pass you by, risk of your customers turning to said competitors, risk of team members leaving to join innovative companies...
Yet change is one of the hardest things to implement across organisations. Especially effectively. Often changing the way a company works and trying to shift culture and ethos is a seismic shift for many. And even when you have changed the way you think internally, it’s a long way to go to change the way your brand is perceived externally.
Which of course, is where communication comes in. Getting employees, suppliers, partners, influencers, affiliates and customers to understand a change in your brand takes a strategic approach, an effective communications plan and commitment. There is a need to explain why you are changing and like the participants in the behavioural change sessions, there needs to be an understanding of what you are adding with the change, not what is being lost. It’s not just about product or service benefits it’s about how that change will affect those who interact with your business.
Change will always continue to be around us – be it as AI changes the landscape of jobs for the future, as the marketplace changes or as economies rise and fall. What is important is communicating the change, showing the benefits of the change to those it is going to affect and understanding that the communication might take different platforms and different approaches for different audiences.
Going back to the behavioural change workshops, change isn’t always about loss. In the majority of cases, change is needed to move forward, and forward thinking is what we all want to be. Jack Welsh encourages us to “review your agenda continuously” and to do this we need to communicate those changes and take our suppliers, our customers and most importantly our team on the journey with us.