An organization needs to create an intrinsic desire to change

Most organizations go through large changes every few decades; startups can pivot within mere months. Is there a sweet spot somewhere in the middle?

“I love changes.” is not uttered very often by employees

“I see an opportunity for change in every everything”

Change has become an integral part of our every day lives. We don’t always notice it though, because the changes are so subtle — or don’t affect us personally all too much.

When the airline Airberlin went bankrupt last year and Lufthansa took over a large portion of its flights, the color of the seats changed on the plane I took to visit our customers, but that was pretty much it. On some flights the prices went up a little, but again this didn’t really change the fact that I was able to hop on a plane from Zürich to Berlin (Düsseldorf or Hamburg), just as I had done in the years prior.

Nobody talks about Airberlin’s bankrupcy anymore. Something “small” changed and we collectively moved on

When change has an effect on the way we do our job, or how we are supposed to do our jobs, things are a little different. We like to think that we are omniscient in that what we do. The longer we do something, the more cocky we get about our experience and (dated) knowledge.

But even if we would see that things can be done more efficiently or plain differently, we still hesitate to support change. In essence, I think it is simply because we don’t like to be told to do things differently. When the desire for change comes from within and we are in charge of the change process, that’s an entirely different thing, right?

Technology adoption rates are much slower than we think

It takes time to get everyone on board when it comes to new technology

The evolution of how we work and approach projects has sped up significantly in light of our digital day and age. Some are struggling to keep up; that is something that we should applaud, because it means that our efforts have a significant impact.

I think Tesla is a great example of how technology can both be exciting and scary at the same time.

Although some people have had the priviledge of testing the insane mode on their Teslas, they have had to wait to use it everywhere until we as a society have caught up. We have had to create the infrastructure throughout the entire country (or the world even) for this technology to be adopted. We have had to change our legislations to promote this change (promote cleaner energy). And we as a society needed to accept that the insane mode is here to stay.

Even though a few people have Teslas with insane modes on them, that doesn’t mean that they can drive as fast as they want or can all the time. The common rules of our society still apply (speed limits). These car owners will need to blend in if they want to make a difference. And it won’t be until the majority of our society sees the benefit in this technology, that we will start to contemplate making the necessary changes to make it available to the masses.

Tesla’s insane mode in action
In the case of consumer driven technology, we don’t have much of a choice but to evolve

There is a simple reason why we all use smartphones instead of mobile phones — we simply cannot buy any plain (calling/texting) mobile phones anymore. Both society and the industry have moved on and a gradual change from cellphones to smartphones has happened in a mere decade.

Truth of the matter is, if you want to bring about any type of change (technological, habitual, personal or organizational) you need to understand the underlying incentive(s) that drive the change process.

There‘s nothing digital about digital change

Let me share a few observations from my day to day life and work.

I run a digital consulting and venture building company. And although we call ourselves digital – because those are the tools that we know how to work with best – very little we do is actually truly digital.

We develop new business models with our clients and support them in their digitalization efforts. These efforts can be anything from optimizing sourcing processes to rolling out new digital business models.

The work I do is mostly educational though — and by educational I don’t mean actually teaching people how to do things — but more preaching that they should learn to do new things. It is okay to challenge the way you work as well as ask yourself if you are creating value with the tasks that you do.

Dior: “I didn’t mean to revolutionize fashion”

The last three years I have worked alongside a number of great entrepreneurs in the fashion industry. Most of them doing roughly between 50 and 200 million in turnover a year.

Fashion is an exciting industry to work with — it involves both creative skills, global production, technological advancements and “set in stone” seasonal production cycles. All of these factors have the potential for constant disruption and the businesses I have worked with, know that.

However, it is incredibly difficult for a single business owner, to start a change initiative without stepping on someone else’s toes in the industry. The industry as a whole is “one big happy family” or everyone is at least related in some way or another.

This makes it incredibly difficult for any one player to come in and make a significant change in the industry. Buying and production cycles are hard to break. Traditional producers, retailers and wholesalers are not intrinsically motivated to make any changes to how they have been working for decades.

However, globalization and the internet have started to create a customer desire for disruption in the industry that wasn’t there before

The desire to change is stronger than the rules that the industry has dictated upon the consumer for years on end. For the first time, everyone in the Fashion industry is forced to look at how they do business and adapt to consumer demand accordingly.

Although omni-channel retail might have been the main driver for change, it hasn’t changed the Fashion Industry significantly enough, just yet.

The industrial change process that we have started to enter, is about people this time and not about technology.

In this case: Technology has merely created transparency; technology has created new lean production opportunities and it will give us the insights we need to meet this new found customer demand.

But the change process itself, has nothing to do with technology. The change process itself is all about creating an intrinsic desire to look at the way we work from a different angle.

“Technology might be the trigger, but organizational change needs to come from our people, it needs to come from within”

How can we shorten our change cycles?

Change what we consider to be important in our work

New technological advancements, market entries and an ever growing fear of globalization are stifling business owners, managers and employees alike. It feels as though our reaction to change is to hang on to the past even more firmly, worship ourselves for what we have achieved so far… and do nothing.

It is incredibly important to take away the anxiety that comes with change

We have more data and access to creative resources than ever before. Our global markets enable us to dip into a tremendous pool of talent from all over the world.

Operational excellence is still the most important variable when it comes to measuring the quality of someone’s work. However, I believe that it is important that we start to measure our teams by how much change they have brought about within their lines of duty as well. We need to enable our teams in such a way that they feel free to come up with new ideas and promote change from the bottom up.

Change management is key to longterm organizational success — we cannot exclude anyone in our organizations from the narrative
Most employees love to see change… around them… As long as it doesn’t involve them directly

Change management is one of the most crucial aspects of technology adoption and an absolute key lever for long term organizational success. Changes will affect each and everyone in the organization. Although most employees would much rather be left alone to do their jobs and do them right, they need to learn to understand that change can start with anyone within the organization.

Regular change meetings as a tool for change

In my experience, regular change meetings within each line of the organization can help bring new ideas to the table and significantly shorten change cycles.

  • I try to hold bi-annual change meetings within the teams that I work with — starting bottom up. The meetings are mostly there to gather ideas, rather than create output.
  • When the meetings take place within the same line of the operation (at a similar hierarchical level), it promotes everyone to openly speak their minds freely.
  • The results from within each team and line of the organization are openly spread across the organization — unfiltered. This creates both transparency and drive across the organization
  • Contributors to the meetings are rewarded and given a platform to speak their mind to the organization
  • A change management squad makes sure that the right ideas get the attention they deserve with senior management (this can be done internally or externally — but it is important that the ideas are assessed and acted upon within a short period of time)

Bottomline: Change needs to come from within

Change is a force that cannot be undone and therefore it scares us all.

Even if we take baby steps, change is still scary, because it makes us look at ourselves; it makes us challenge how we have always done things.

But it is something that is essential to our longterm success as a business. We need to promote change from within our organizations and learn to educated everyone that it is important for them to contribute.

Change and disruption is not just about technology, but about people. We mustn’t forget that.

Have a great day, Remco Livain