We love change, it’s the transition we hate

David Armes | 4th January 2020

I have been working with a travel company this year, who under new ownership, are going through big change focused on creating a sustainable and profitable company. This change is at an offer, structural and cultural level.

I was working with the senior management team, looking at how all the different departments could come together to create a customer focused experience that would differentiate them from the competition.

We kicked off the session exploring how everyone was feeling about the change and the work we had done so far. One of the team said – ‘we feel like we are moving to a new house without the excitement of knowing what our new house looks like!!’

This very heartfelt analogy, that all the team agreed with, reminded me of the work carried out by William Bridges (1991 Managing Transitions) where his research showed that no matter the conditions of the change, humans don’t mind it, it’s the transition they hate.

Now why am I writing about change? Because I recently wrote a whitepaper entitled ‘Is consultancy dead?’ that explores the changing face of client engagement and the challenges this poses to winning with clients in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet you can read it here.

Since its publication I have received lots of feedback that the topics have rung true with so many people. The key theme being, yes, we need to change but it's going to be tough. Plus, clients have been building on the ideas in the paper, which I thought would be useful to share as we get into planning out 2020.

The first area is that the leadership team need to be much clearer on the destination – help everyone visualise the new house so that they can get excited about the future and push on through the transition, even though some of it may be tough (none of us like packing our unpacking boxes!!). They also need to become much more bloody minded and focused to implement the transition, not just launch the new destination. Be really clear on how the team is going to get there and be relentlessly focused on making it happen.

Secondly, peoples roles need to become much more focused rather than generalised. If you are going to change at pace then people need the space to become experts in new ways of working and then practice them regularly to make new habits.

The third area of discussion has been on becoming more learning orientated as an organisation to create an adaptive way of working. Yes, outcome orientation creates a short term up lift in activity but a learning orientation (constantly answering the questions - how can we get better?) leads to new behaviours and new results.

Finally, and probably the biggest debate is how to get started. Through many conversations we have concluded that you need to create proof of concept. Ringfence a team, a client group, a set of leaders, a business unit to implement this and give them the goals, support, development and space to make it succeed.

As we enter a new decade, we all know the challenge of winning with clients is getting more complex. From complexity comes both threat and opportunity.  Threat if you aren’t willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Opportunity if you build a picture of a wonderful new house, work together on how you are going to support each other through the transition and have the courage to implement new ways of working with your clients.

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