The following is a guest post by Maja Frigelj, a Business Strategy Consultant with a major consulting firm in Washington, DC and fellow entrepreneur as Founder of DC Language Services. We met after my branding talk at one of the Ballston Launchpad events and found an interesting overlap between the work we do in branding and the work she does around business strategy and change management.
The approach to management of change in support of a future desired state
A growing healthcare solutions company has finally decided to make a significant investment in a new collaboration tool that will not only keep track of documents, keep version control, and automate processes, but also foster innovative thinking and encourage collaboration between teams, divisions, and branches. Sounds perfect, right? Fast forward four years since implementation: no one has used the tool. Processes are still not automated, cross-team collaboration is minimal, and innovation has been stagnant. What went wrong?
The management of positioning and perception
An enterprise software company has been seeing a steady decline in sales. To improve their product line’s capabilities, they acquired a mobile software firm. After research, the organization believes that a rebranding is critical to effectively position their new and improved products and hopes that the rebranding will create a spark within the organization that will drive continued innovation. The organization hoped that the rebrand would grow sales, but aside from the initial blip around the launch, sales continue to remain stagnant. What went wrong?
While there are a number of variables that could be impacting each of the above simplified scenarios, it’s clear they both revolve around one common challenge: effective transition. In each case, there was an initial interest and push to do something new, but it wasn’t sustaining. Why? Because the focus was mostly on the introduction of the change and not the sustained implementation of that change over time.
One of the key overlaps I see between change management and branding is the use of consistency as a key factor to successful execution. And a critical area where consistency is vital is how a change is introduced into a company’s internal culture and operational environment.
As such, all internal and external communication not only need to be clear and consistent every time, but they need to be done over a long enough time that the change can be properly understood and internalized. Here, both change management and branding are dependent on creating one voice that communicates the context, perspective, vision, and organization’s direction in terms of the upcoming change, regardless of what the change is.
In other words, effective change management increases the probability of successful internal adoption of change, again tool or brand, by preparing and equipping personnel to thrive in a new environment. While, both change management and rebranding use many approaches, tools, and techniques to be successful, what they have in common is the need to honestly answer questions that define the purpose for the transformation, including:
What is the change?
Why do we need the change?
How does the change affect my job?
Is my job going to go away due to the change?
What if I don’t want to change?
Ultimately, it must be the organization’s number one priority to communicate early and often (through memos, brown bags, conference calls, flyers, singing telegrams, etc.) to ensure all employees are aware, ready, and prepared for organizational impacts that result from an organizational change or rebrand. It is only then that employees can decide whether they want to stick around for the change and buy into it. Bottom line? If an employee doesn’t believe in the new direction, they can’t be expected to be successful in their role.
Building a brand, like a shift in business processes, service offerings, or any type of significant change within an organization first starts with buy-in from its employees and then translates externally to customers. Anything less than that is an almost guarantee that the change or rebranding will not be sustainable and that you’ll be asking a lot more of “What went wrong?”