Why change?

The previous module gave you a flavour of the vast body of evidence underpinning workplace innovation – in short, the concept is very solidly grounded in ‘what works’. But research evidence itself rarely drives the transformation of organisational practices and cultures.

The following headings summarise some of the most common motivations for change:

Employee engagement: “we face lots of challenges and opportunities, and we really need to get our people behind us”.  More and more leaders are recognising that harnessing the commitment and ideas of the entire workforce builds a key resource for innovation and resilience in an increasingly volatile business environment.

High growth: “we’re growing fast but want to keep our enterprising culture and small-company feel, and to avoid creating silos”.  Many business leaders are persuaded to add layers of management and to divide the organisation into specialised functions as the company grows – thereby losing much of the enterprising culture and agility that fuelled initial success. Other ways of managing growth are available!

Transformation: “our markets are changing fast and we just can’t continue to do the things we’ve always done”.  Innovation and versatility are increasingly central to survival and success. Hierarchical and siloed organisations cannot achieve this capacity to reinvent products, services and processes on an almost continuous basis; rather they must reinvent and transform working practices and workplace cultures.

Industry 4.0: “digital technologies offer enormous potential for our business but we want to introduce them with our people”.  Technological change driven from the top downwards is highly prone to fail; the task is to work with people in ways that achieve the best possible synergies between human potential and digital potential.

Clean sheet: “we’re an ambitious new company without any baggage from the past, so we want to learn from the best in the world”. Forget what you know from the past. There are some exciting new organisational models out there, and they can lead to fast growth and sustainable competitive advantage.

Annoying problems: “the same old issues keep cropping up and we just can’t seem to find a permanent cure”. Many companies face wickedly persistent problems of quality, reliability, low productivity, failure to innovate or staff disengagement. Superficial fixes don’t work – it’s time to dig deeper and take a more systemic look at the problem.

And, just occasionally . . .

Inspiration: “we’ve understood the evidence and seen some great companies: now how do we put it into practice?”  It may start with a gradual ‘gut feeling’ or a blinding flash but sometimes an inspiring article or company visit can really make you think “wow – we could be doing that too!”

What can your workforce tell you about opportunities for positive change?

Engaging the workforce in open reflection and dialogue is an important way both of identifying positive opportunities for workplace innovation and change, and for engaging them in making it happen. Contact us for details of our People Centred Change short course which explores several practical tools and approaches from initial engagement to building a shared vision.

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