By Jennifer Bryan and Steve Wells
When we implement change programmes, how often do we future proof the change by exploring the future? Do the programs we put in place simply seek to change the past and present and how well does that set us up for an increasingly uncertain future characterised by exponential change? We argue for the integration of foresight to human-centric change programmes to help enterprise design, create, and implement effective, future focused change that focuses on people.
What is the Future and Change Context?
The world is increasingly subject to significant change and while the focus is often on the potential implications of exponential technology developments like artificial intelligence, robotics, adaptive manufacturing, augmented and virtual reality for example, political, economic, and social change are also happening at break-neck speed. This range of future forces—together with the current pandemic—act on life, society, and business and add to our personal and organisational sense of complexity and uncertainty.
In the past, we have been confident in our predictions about how the external environment is evolving and been able to come to consensus about the way ahead. Increasingly we are far from certain about how the outside world is evolving and are less able to reach consensus about how to proceed. It's this situation that we believe calls for a new focus to leading change in organisations, and that’s not easy. There’s a temptation to always do what we’ve always done. But then we get what we’ve always got; except the reality is that the world moves on and we risk being left behind.
Putting People at the Heart of Change
Change management is about people but this statement of the obvious too often gets lost in over-complicated methodologies and technology focused approaches to change. Leaders get seduced by the glitter of the gizmo and forget to pay attention to the ordinary every-day needs of the people who will make the technology sing.
Typically the people side of change is an after-thought and noticed only once things are not working as planned.
With the current environment especially, a number of questions arise concerning the nature of change and the human face of change. There needs to be a new mind-set to accept and embrace exponential change, to do so with more than an eye on plausible multiple technology-centric futures, and on enabling a more human-centric future.
Are we building a change programme that takes us toward a single, perhaps preferred future, or to help us prepare for a number of potentially different futures? Building flexibility, agility, and resilience into change programs by exploring plausible scenarios is crucial for the future growth of our enterprises and the wellbeing of employees.
Using the ABChange Model in the context of these different future scenarios enables leaders to generate a pathway that includes the people and ensures they are taken along this journey of transition and change.
This approach ensures an organisation’s greatest asset is paid proper attention to, whether changes are seen as radical or incremental. It marries the person and the change task together in the different future scenarios.
Many leaders find leading people through change intimidating because there are emotions involved, sometimes difficult conversations, and it takes people out of their comfort zones. With the current environment, we have all been very much outside our comfort zones for a whole variety of reasons. However, bringing together two frameworks that enables us to plot a journey towards plausible futures and help inform how we can lead in, and into the future, gives leaders the ability to really focus on the priorities for the business to not just survive but to grow.
- How do you make sense of the current change context in your organisation?
- How do you assess and meet the needs of the people in your organisation subject to change?
- How much effort do you put into setting change programmes for the future rather than the present?
- How do you integrate futures studies / foresight into your change programmes?
Image Source: Patricio González / https://pixabay.com/illustrations/man-forest-trees-buildings-horizon-5606892/