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Include context and relationships in your next big organisational change

Next Thursday is Valentine’s Day, for the romantics who celebrate it. Think about all the wonderful changes it brings. You can find a new love, rekindle an old one, strengthen a marriage – all positive outcomes.

So how best to bring about this beautiful, positive change?

Here’s a bad idea: automate it. Write a whatsapp (or text) message with delayed delivery. Order chocolates or flowers online today for delivery on 14th. Have a ready-made meal delivered to your doorstep on the evening of 14th to save time on cooking. I doubt either you or your partner will feel much love.

These three tactics fail because love, like change, depends on two powerful factors: context at the time and relationships. Unfortunately, many global executives ignore exactly these two powerful factors.

Turn the page. The best global managers look at the local operating environment (the context at that time) and then select the strategic actions that emerge from that context. Then, they fit the actions to the people who have to implement it, via the formal and informal change networks in their organisations. This is the relationships factor.

One of my clients took a whole EMEA business unit to meet in Brussels when they introduced a new organisational structure. To many executives that seems extravagant and too time-consuming. It might have been, but they included two key steps to make the change stick:

  • The Context Step. Explain the rationale for the re-structuring, the business results it brings and the performance gains required to get there.
  • The Relationship Step. Quite simply, taking time to listen and dialog with the employees.

This resulted in re-designed, more efficient customer processes. A later survey of employees confirmed a much higher acceptance of these changes and better-than-expected business unit results.

If you want faster change, you can always issue commands and directives, like an army officer or strict teacher will tell you. But if you want long-lasting, fundamental change, you must manage the two most powerful factors: emerging context and relationships.




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