Correction: An outdated version of the newsletter was previously sent in error. This new version is the Careers newsletter for Sept. 5. The Globe apologizes for the error.
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Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.
Technology was disrupting businesses even before the pandemic hit. But despite predictions about a “Digital Darwinism” in which an organization’s ability to adopt new technology affects its survival, many organizations seemed to defer change for a variety of reasons: cost, inadequate support from leadership or lack of resources.
But that’s a mistake, says Cindy Smith, the Canada co-lead for the Change Management Institute, a global organization founded in Australia with chapters in several countries, including Canada.
Visionary organizations should be routinely scanning the horizon for when to embed the concept of change management - a term used to describe an organization’s ability to maintain productivity through disruption. A good organizational change-management strategy typically translates the lofty ambitions of senior executives into clear communication for the employees it will affect.
Over the past quarter of a century, change management has evolved from being a just concept to a full-fledged discipline, and there’s much to learn from successful organizational transformations over the decades. For instance, the 80s and 90s were a period of major upheaval for the financial sector. The disruptions were largely driven by automation and technology, but despite the steep learning curve, the industry became adept at change. During this time, change management was really all about getting employees – particularly those working in the branch offices – to adapt to technology, explains Ms. Smith, whose 20-year stint in the financial sector mostly involved building organizational and individual change-management capability in organizations that regularly see disruption.
Then there’s the much-touted example of Domino’s Pizza, whose sales and stock price plunged in the mid-2000s. The pizza maker is well known for the way it overhauled its ingredients and menu items, but it was the company’s digital metamorphosis that was the game-changer.
You can order a Domino’s pizza from virtually any device – Apple TV, Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart TVs, Google Home, smartwatches, as well as by Twitter, Slack, and Facebook messenger – courtesy of a next-generation ordering platform called Domino’s AnyWare.
In a column in Forbes, the two executives who led the change credited organizational buy-in from top down, as well as transparent messaging delivered to customers through owned, paid and earned media as key to their success. Domino’s also undertook rigorous A/B testing of every tool and product. The results gave them a snapshot of the factors driving sales and valuable insights that could be used to fine-tune products and prices.
“The main lesson to be learned from Domino’s is that getting the fundamentals right first is of the utmost importance,” noted Kyle Wong, the writer of the Forbes piece. “It takes patience, but building that foundation, along with gaining buy-in from the entire organization, is necessary before moving on the shiny new objects,” he said, referring to the approach needed to successfully manage change.
Similarly, mergers and acquisitions can prove disruptive for companies, and having a change-management plan can help successfully engage and empower employees. Case in point: Cisco Systems.
When Cisco Systems wanted to expand through acquisitions, it leveraged Enterprise Architecture (EA), a term that describes the process by which an organization standardizes and organizes information-technology infrastructure to suit the company’s particular business needs.
Since its founding in 1984, Cisco has grown to 77,500 employees and boasts revenues of more than USD$49-billion. This success has been mostly through the acquisition and integration of 179 or more business units - and it’s the company’s EA capability that has helped it rapidly seize value from acquisitions and sustain itself over time.
Over the coming weeks, as schools reopen and workers settle into their new normal of work, post COVID-19 workplaces will need to be powered by change management - or at least, some version of it, Ms. Smith says.
“From here, companies need to think about being agile through change, and at the same time give their people the best chance for success,” Ms. Smith said. She suggests that companies be open to innovation, reduce levels of management where possible, increase transparency of leadership decisions and create a risk-taking culture.
Change leaders know managing remote teams optimally is the difference between a successful organizational change and a failed one. Over the next few years, remote change management, data-driven change management and an organizational culture built on a growth mindset will likely be the main drivers of change.
“We think change is happening fast now ... it’ll never be this slow again,” Ms. Smith said.
What I’m reading around the web
- Looking for part-time work? Have you considered “hiring” your face for deepfake-style marketing clones? In an article in MIT Technology Review, author Will Douglas Heaven, discusses how some youngsters have hired out their faces to Hour One, a startup that uses people’s likenesses to create AI-voiced characters that then appear in marketing and educational videos for organizations around the world.
- And as we return to offices, writers Liz Fosslein and Molly West-Duffy offer leaders a few pointers on how to make the transition easy for their employees in this article in Forbes, . They call for senior management teams to be transparent, be clear about expectations and discuss the road ahead.
- In a blog that updates the success of Alphabet’s drone delivery company Wing, the company says it has delivered 10,000 cups of coffee, 1,700 snack packs and 1,200 roast chickens to customers in Logan, Australia, over the past year. This story in CNBC has all the details.
More opinion from Globe Careers
Hybrid work risks becoming the next ‘career killer’ for women Working women just can’t catch a break, writes Globe columnist Rita Trichur.
If self-improvement is the goal, don’t shy away from high-pressure situations The key is not to insulate yourself from pressure but to channel its power to beneficial results, writes Globe columnist Harvey Schachter.
More from the section
Did my weightlifting restrictions lead to my wrongful dismissal? After returning from disability leave, a reader asks whether a weightlifting restriction set out by my physiotherapy and insurance could have had an impact on her dismissal.
Can this biology researcher with international experience break into the Canadian job market? Despite applying to 64 jobs, this science researcher has only made it to the interview stage twice.
Impacted by COVID-19, ‘banker ladies’ take up informal leadership and financial roles in minority communities Collectively, these are known as Rotating Savings and Credit Associations, and they have become a means not just for women to save in a disciplined way, but also to provide financial and emotional support to their peers, or even start their own businesses.
Leadership Lab is a series where executives, experts and writers share their views and advice about the world of work. You can find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.
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