The only constant we can be certain of is change. As we prepare to move into a new decade, the companies that will win in the 2020s are the ones that are proactively designed to adapt to the world’s constantly shifting realities.

These realities will include the wider roll out of artificial intelligence, a more diverse workforce, an ever-greater emphasis on data protection and strictly enforced regulations designed to protect the environment.

How ready are you and how can you get ready?

Many, if not the vast majority of businesses and organisations, have deeply entrenched workflow systems that are underpinned by decades-old hierarchies. Deconstructing or even just mildly disrupting these systems can actually lead to further entrenchment, if not full-blown resistance.

With the need to change in mind, how do you actually go about it?

It’s all about your people – all of your people. A newly published “cultural audit” of An Garda Síochána found that “change has not landed at the front line”. This is a hugely common barrier to change.

The people at c-level are briefed on the new processes, with a full understanding of the whys and the hows, but staff further down the line are left out. How can change happen in an environment that lacks inclusion and genuine buy-in?

The cultural audit of gardaí revealed “scepticism” towards the force’s newly designed Modernisation of Renewal Programme. After all the hard work of examining the change you need, followed by initial attempts to implement it, this kind of scepticism from the bulk of your staff is the last thing you want to come up against.

The science of organisational change

New research from the Boston Consulting Group examines the science of organisational change. It found that traditional approaches to cultural transformation are not that effective.

The research found that only about one in four transformations succeeds in the – and the success rate has been trending downward. So, how can you make sure you are the one in that four?

Successful implementation of change

The global consultancy group identified five components to ensure the successful implementation of change. They are:

  • Ground change programmes in evidence
  • De-average change strategies according to the nature of the challenge at hand
  • Embrace uncertainty and complexity in change management
  • Use technology to identify the right talent to execute change
  • Tap into emerging science to enhance change programmes

Helping your employees to change

After you’ve decided on your transformation programme, how do you roll out change on the ground? In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Bryan Walker, managing director of global design company IDEO, wrote about how a 33-year-old Indian pharmaceutical company transformed itself.

Dr Reddy’s produces affordable generic medication and has more than 20,000 employees in 27 different countries. Decision making at the company had grown more complicated and parts of the company had become misaligned.

Its CEO, GV Prasad, needed to make Dr Reddy’s culture nimbler and more innovative. He hired IDEO to learn about the needs of everyone at the company to create a common purpose. Everyone – from shop-floor workers and scientists to external partners and investors – was consulted.

Eventually, the purpose was pared down to four words: “Good health can’t wait.”

Leading by example

And this is where things got interesting. Instead of plastering this new slogan on motivational posters and repeating it in all hands meetings, the leadership team began by quietly using it to start guiding their own decisions. The goal was to demonstrate this idea in action, not talk about it.

Prasad saw a change in the company culture right away. “After we introduced the idea of ‘good health can’t wait’, one of the scientists told me he developed a product in 15 days and broke every rule there was in the company. He was proudly stating that.

“Normally, just getting the raw materials would take him months, not to mention the rest of the process for making the medication. But he was acting on that urgency. And now he’s taking this lesson of being lean and applying it to all our procedures.”

If you want to help your employees through inevitable change:

  • Base your plan in evidence
  • Embrace technology
  • Avoid mandates