Each day we are faced with a challenge to introduce change in a business. While some changes may be more visible than others, most are difficult neglectless. Today the business environment in India has grown as dynamic (sometimes I feel more) as our free foreign counterpart capitalist countries.
A social change is comparatively easier to be introduced since the need for it is already felt by the masses and only a leader is needed to canalize the will into practice. While the Indians felt suffocated (with exceptions of course) under the British colonial rule, the need for independence had been understood, When Gandhi acknowledged it, the countrymen started connecting with each other and it turned into a mass movement.
As against this, the need for change in business is best understood by two people – (1) the management or the entrepreneur / visionary and (2) the customer. The implementation and management of change in social context can be discussed at a later stage, here the context is business. Because, the business is run for some by many, so many do not feel the need or urge to identify the need for change at all. So it is left on a few to introduce, implement and manage change for many.
In order to understand the subject better, let us proceed further …
What is change?
I recently met an old friend of mine. We used to be together when we were in school. The opening comment was that I still looked similar to how I looked earlier, though some extra kilos had taken some charm out of me. As we sat down to talk, we continued late into the evening and we parted late into the night. As I headed home, I summarized our discussions mentally:
– Our teachers;
– Our first crushes;
– Our pranks;
– Hot babes;
– Night outs;
– Carefree life;
– Lack of resources (as compared to now);
– How things have changed;
– How we warn for the old times;
We had decided to meet again the following weekend. I waited for this meeting. As we met again, we were bachelors again. We were seeing the candies in the bar … we chatted and enjoyed the evening.
We had decided to meet again after three weeks. And we met as scheduled. Again our youth was back. This time we decided to shake a leg too. And as we did so .., I developed a dizzy feeling after a while. After some care, I was normal, but I understood that I had grown, I had changed. I did not want to accept this but the unfortunate reality was that I had changed and nothing could alter this now. I was no longer a teenager who do twenty things in one go and still do not feel dizzy!
There is nothing wrong with getting older. It is wrong not to accept it. But we want to remain young. Have as much fun as possible. Live as much a carefree life as we used to. We want our spouses (for those of who are married) to look and continue to look as stunning as when we first saw them. And for those who are not yet married – we want to continue to look as stunning as we used to. But the sad or happy reality is that we change – all of us change. That we look more stunning today then we ever used to – is what we have to understand. That we have changed is some thing we accept at one point in time or the other ….. Certainly before we die, all of us accept change. For some of us, this acceptance is in time while for some it is too late.
We change – and as we do – all that is around us is bound to change. If Einstein's father was not an "Einstein" so was not his son. The next generation will bring in a revolution greater than the earlier one and will at some stage redefine even the moral fabric of the way we live and perhaps the way we die! Yet we do not accept change – we may understand it but we do not accept it. We do not permit it to flow. We always try to canalize it, modify it, delay it, postpone it, ignore it, avoid it, suppress it, pretend to accept it, and do as much within the capacities of our conscious and sub-conscious mind to move away from it . But we do not do what even a tree, or a bird, or sea, or grass can do ………. Accept it.
The only thing permanent is Change. An old proverb – least understood.
Business is all about change. The very idea that an entrepreneur gave shape to his vision was to bring about a change in the lives of people – his would be customers. But as times change, the customer defines new requirements – the supply chain systems require new modes and techniques, the accounting systems need a change, customer interfaces change, products change, qualities change, and the business which change with this change, Sustain. Those businesses which implement this change while accepting it and manage it effectively – Prosper. Howsoever old the business or industrial house, the ones which falter in this process of change – Die out.
Yet implementing and managing Change remains a top most challenge. Why – because in this we deal with Humans. We deal with our-selves. We can change the machines and computers and the tables and the desks and everything else material – but how do we change the habits, the culture, the plans, the procedures. How can we ask the man operating the machine to be careful in what he is doing? More careful than he already is!
Change is dynamic, so the only way for a success is to install a culture to change. Introducing change – in the typical cases of business process re-engineering can be cited as examples where change is brought in a surge. But after introducing new processes, most fail since they do not set in a process for change acceptance on a dynamic, day-to-day basis. The moment an employee applies for a leave – need for change; The moment a new employee joins – need for change; A new distributor – change; A new color for the product – change; A new market – change; A new partner – change; A new president – change; A new system of procedures – change; New government regulations – change; New technology – change; New disclosure norms – change; An employee getting married – change; Someone getting pregnant – change; A new competitor – change; New laws in another country – change; Fluctuating foreign exchange rates – change; Expansion plans – change; Etc. How we deal with these every day – will go on to define us. Our sensitivity to the need for change due to the situation will define the employee and eventally organizational satisfaction. An organization's sensitivity to each moment will make it work. The larger challenges will automatically be sorted out.
Is it a choice?
Is change a choice? No, I would think not. But accepting it is always a choice. The more consciously we make it – the more successful are we. Mere acceptance will also bring about a reasonable degree – but varying degree – of success. The level of acceptance and success are directly proportional.
How to fore see the need to change?
I am sure of existence of those people who know what change to introduce and when, but I will be content if a business house has a leader who can foresee the need to change also. Identifying the need will define the requirement of what to change with time and discussion. But to continue be on the vigil – looking for the need to change – will also do most of the good. The need to change will trigger the rest of the process of change implementation.
How to accept the need to change?
My profession takes me into very interesting situations. I will narrate one here. While in a meeting with a very senior manager of a la
rge corporate where he was narrating the frustrations he was faced with, due to poor implementation during the past two (yes I said TWO) years of the ERP implementation, I asked him "is your Department accepting new systems? " – "yes, he says, all my team members have accepted new systems whole heartedly, in fact we are the ones who are doing it the best". I further probed – "but do you really think this was needed for the accounts and statutory compliance department in the first place?" And to my utter satisfaction – the reply (a candid one) was "well – I do not think this is really needed for our department – we were much better off with our previous system, where we were using Tally (an accounting software) . " To understand further – I asked – "so while you are not sure of the new systems, how do insure against the unforeseen errors? And the reply was" well I am using a dual system – where I have asked my department to make identical entries In Tally and well as the new system. "Wonderful – I thought Here was a man who was part of the core team implementing the change – and he had not yet accepted the need itself. Consequently, the damage exercise was on and the company. Had been scratching its head wondering why the implementation was not successful! I was satisfied, because I now knew where things were to be rectified. A higher degree of pretension would have made things more difficult for me.
Till the Need to Change is not addressed, there is no point in moving forward. Most of the times, the department under change is happy with the previous systems and want to continue with them only. Change can not be forced, it can be introduced and that too only after the need to change is well understood.
– Change we must, but with acceptance.
– Accept the change we must, but with understanding the need for it.
– Accepting the need to Change will begin from the top and will not end till it is accepted at all the functional levels where the change is to be implemented.
– And if we do not – then … we have no right to shout and cry foul.