Levels of Change Management in Modern Times
Here is a big question, is it a time for us to move beyond changes, something to manage, and disruption is something to be feared.
Don’t get me wrong, managing the changes that come at you and responding quickly to potential disruptions are still important. Leaders in organizations still struggle to succeed at leading change, and many organizations find themselves disruptive because they became complacent. But even then, there was a subtitle in the book about staying nimble.
We’re limiting ourselves by looking at change exclusively through this lens of adapt or die. It’s time to think about an approach, change, and transformation as a good thing. In fact, it can be a strategic advantage.
Levels of Change Management
Here are four levels of dealing with change that we should be considering today.
Level One: Continually Adapt.
This is basically the message of who moved my cheese, and your iceberg is melting. And again, it’s still important, but it’s time we expand our view.
Level Two: Anticipation.
This is looking ahead to be ready for what might be coming next. That’s better, but it still might not be enough.
For instance, anticipating what might happen with the economy or regulatory change is a good thing. You want to be ready if something happens, the challenges you can anticipate, but still, miss the market.
For instance, Blockbuster anticipated that video rentals would move to DVD by mail and eventually to streaming. Everyone thinks that they just didn’t adapt, but they had people working on those things. One former blockbuster leader said that they knew it was coming. In other words, they anticipated it, but we just thought they had more time. That’s why great companies today are looking at a Level three response.
Level Three: Pursuing Change.
Pursuing change means that you search out what’s next rather than simply anticipate it. Years ago, there was a television show called Wagon Train. It was about a wagon train crossing the prairie to the west. It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Well, the wagon train had a group of employees called the Scouts, and their job was to ride out over the horizon each day to find the answers to two questions. Where’s the water, and where are the hostiles?
Notice they didn’t ride out to the horizon and stop because you can see the change that’s on your side of the horizon. They ventured out beyond where you could readily see what’s coming. And then, based on their report, the wagon train could change direction before there was danger or the capture and opportunity.
Level Four: Level Zero.
And that’s basically ignoring change. Times of great technological innovation like the one that we’re in right now, create a transition to new drivers in the economy.
We saw that happen as we move from the agricultural economy to the industrial revolution. It happened again as we move from manufacturing to primarily a service economy. And we’re seeing it now with the transition to a digital and subscription economy. Those transitions open the door for entrepreneurs to flourish, and that’s exciting. But it also creates the opportunity to pursue bright, shiny objects with a low potential for return. Knowing if you’ve struck gold or found fool’s gold can be difficult.
You’re going to get it wrong, but you can maximize your opportunities for success. If you’re clear on your purpose, values, and the customers you serve, you’ll also need to be more effective and efficient at using data to model potentials, then make better choices. There’s a degree of anticipation required, so it’s good to know the difference between, as my colleague Dan Burress says, hard trends and fads. But even then, you’re going to make mistakes.
And when that happens, you have to go back to level one, adapt even in the face of failure, and you have to do that quicker.
It’s still important to be change-ready, but the organizations that will flourish in the future will stay nimble to remain relevant.