For obvious reasons, 2020 has been a highly disruptive year for all types of organisations around the world. The business plans we had formulated and any aims we had in our sights were abruptly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we move forward and companies wrestle back control of their direction in this new landscape, most businesses will carry out some form of organisational change.
Organisational change is a process in which a company looks to adapt its strategies, methods of working, processes and procedures, or internal culture. Typically, the focus is on improving efficiency in the business in order to meet external challenges, whilst considering the impact that such changes may have. In order to succeed, organisational change needs to be well communicated to everyone affected, with a clear strategy and timeline laid out.
The organisational change you embark on is determined by your own context and goals. However, something that should be considered is your pace of change.
How fast (or slow) you implement change can have huge effects on its outcomes. Given the current circumstances, the temptation will be to implement the organisational change as quickly as possible in order to bring about future successes sooner, but is this the best way to go about it?
"Living in a constantly evolving world, you'd think we'd be used to change."
How fast (or slow) should you implement an organisational change?
Pre-COVID research by McKinsey discovered that only 37% of companies actually meet their change programme deadline. In contrast, 43% of organisations underestimated the time required to complete their aims. The final 20% actually came in under their deadline, suggesting that they either found a highly efficient approach or that they over-egged their estimate.
Looking at several hundred companies, McKinsey was able to establish that once a concept had been decided upon, the average time to implement organisational change was roughly 12 months. 25% of reorganisation implementations actually take over 18 months to complete. In some particularly complex cases, it can take companies years to reach that point.
The speed at which you approach your organisational change is an important consideration. Frequently, companies choose to take it slow to ensure that all employees, suppliers, customers and other stakeholders are on board with the process. The main issue with this approach is that it is human nature to resist change.
Living in a constantly evolving world, you’d think that we’d be used to it but change can be incredibly distracting for an organisation.
A common problem is when those involved and affected begin to feel disillusioned with the entire process. Lack of clarity and poor communication leaves them confused about what their role is within the overhauled business and what the leadership’s expectations are.
Interestingly, the rate of transformation in organisational change varies worldwide. In this episode of the WeeklyBeaz covering the pace of change, 6 Group's Managing Director, James Beazley, discusses the contrasting approach to organisational change around the world.
Europe notably takes longer to fulfill the goals of a change programme than the likes of North America, China, India, and other developing markets. The latter countries typically utilise a more top-down authoritative style to their business approach. In these organisations, employees are expected to unquestioningly follow the leadership of a small group of individuals. European countries, in contrast, work on a more collaborative, almost consensus-driven basis, in which more people are given the opportunity to voice their opinion. Whilst this is effective for ensuring that employees feel like their views are being heard, this approach slows down the rate of change.
What are the challenges of a lengthy organisational change?
The longer it takes to implement organisational change in your company, the longer everyone is going to be distracted. Individual’s concerned with their future can quickly lose focus, and there is a real risk that they will begin looking for opportunities elsewhere - impacting both your employee retention and business performance levels.
What's more, from a customer perspective, there is only a certain length of time that they will be able to put up with disruption before choosing to take their business elsewhere.
An added point of concern is that as the process drags out, certain elements will be dropped or forgotten as the focus turns to simply getting the transformation over the line. Your organisational change programme becomes watered down and likely less impactful and effective. Remember, there was a reason you included those elements in the first place.
Organisational change during the COVID-19 pandemic
The context is obviously critical here. In the pre-COVID era, adopting a slower rate of change to ensure stakeholders are thoroughly communicated with and all activities implemented correctly would have been ideal. However, for many companies in these uncertain times, organisational change is a facilitator of survival. There's simply no time for lengthy implementation periods.
The reason you’ve committed to change is to achieve a specific outcome and arrive at a better place than you presently are. Ideally, you want to get there as fast and efficiently as possible.
It can also be said that employees, customers, shareholders, etc. now expect change to happen given the current situation and will be more likely to make allowances for a swift and abrupt organisational change - if it means the business and its circumstances will improve as a result.
Get in touch
6 Group is a facilitator of change for its clients. We work with organisations to help define their transformation goals, build and conduct the change plan, and partner with them throughout the journey.
If you’d like to discuss how 6 Group can help your company achieve its organisational change, get in touch:
- +44 (0)161 926 4320