leading change…..

Vikas, a dear friend of mine,  is currently engaged in transforming a strong and successful but stagnant division he manages into a more agile, nimble footed, growth oriented and externally focused one. How familiar does this situation  appear to so many of us corporate folks! A much debated topic, change management is a phrase used very frequently but often without adequate depth and understanding.

A few of these corporate change efforts have been very successful and a few utter failures, most falling in between with a tilt towards the lower end of the scale. The process goes through a series of phases over a considerable length of time. Skipping steps only creates an illusion of speed and never produces satisfying results.

When businessess are preoccupied with consolidating their positions, stability matters. However in today’s turbulent economic times, organisations of all kinds must learn and change or perish. Status quo is not an option! Vikas and I have been discussing certain steps that can act as catalysts and make the effort successful :

– establishing a sense of urgency – when your competitive situation is under threat, it is crisis time. Bad business results can be a blessing in disguise as they force a reassessment of your positioning. The urgency rate needs to be pumped up sufficiently for the transformation process to succeed. Often executives become paralysed with the downside possibilities. They worry that employees with seniority will become defensive, morale will drop, short term business results might get compromised. Such a paralysis is an outcome of having too many managers and too few leaders. Renewal requires a new system which demands leadership and it does not go far unless real leaders are hired or promoted – quickly! 

– creating a guiding coalition – change is extremely difficult and just cannot be brought about by the lone leader at the top. A shared commitment of a group to excellent performance through renewal is a key determinant of success. Someone needs to get these people together, help them develop a common assessment of company’s problems and opportunities and create a minimum level of trust and communication. Since people are so comfortable in the steady state, opposition and cynicism to change can build rapidly if there are not enough people supporting it.

– developing the vision and sharing it – painting a picture of the future that is easy to understand and easy to communicate is an absolute must to anchor and rally the employees. Vision is beyond numbers and clarifies direction. Without a sensible vision the transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that do not take the organisation anywhere. Once the vision is set, just communicate and over communicate as you need everyone to participate to make a success of it.

– celebrate short term wins – while vision is long term, shoot for some quick immediate success. That confirms the work of leaders, boosts hard working staff, undermines skeptics and reinforces belief in change effort. In a way this is just dissecting the big task into many smaller ones and celebrating one by one as you accomplish each.

stay the course – the process of change can be hugely energy sapping. There are bound to be many disappointments and setbacks in the journey. The guiding coalition has to stay positive and demonstrate tremendous sense of purpose and commitment to the right outcomes. Also be prepared to learn and alter the course and stay practical all the while

An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning rapidly into action is the ultimate competitive advantage. I know the above might seem simplistic but then isn’t the most perfect way of going about any task by simply simplifying it!  

best wishes


2 thoughts on “leading change…..

  1. Leading
    and driving change is very relevant in current context and will remain
    so in an increasingly integrated global economic environment. Besides
    some key imperatives for leading change as enumerated above, equal
    amount of efforts and energy needs to be spent on the readiness of the
    organisation to manage change. The best to make organisation ready for
    the change is communicate in ways that help people understand change
    and the change process.Establishing role and structures to support
    change will be another given to make change sustainably successful. The
    challenge will be to manage the change process while maintaining
    operational excellence and effectiveness. As human beings we have
    uncanny ability to adapt. Even sometimes, we underestimate it but this
    potential is present and must simply be harnessed with discipline
    provided as leaders we do our fundamental obligation of explaining it
    with conviction that what is the change in for and what are its
    Thinking long term and taking bold steps will bring us nearer to
    success as organisations get ready to navigate the choppy waters of
    global competition.

  2. Below is a letter from Nokia CEO to its employee..MUST READ.

    Hello there,

    There is a pertinent story about a man who was working on an oil platform in the North Sea. He woke up one night from a loud explosion, which suddenly set his entire oil platform on fire. In mere moments, he was surrounded by flames. Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform’s edge. When he looked down over the edge, all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.

    As the fire approached him, the man had mere seconds to react. He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames. Or, he could plunge 30 meters in to the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a “burning platform,” and he needed to make a choice.

    He decided to jump. It was unexpected. In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times – his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a “burning platform” caused a radical change in his behaviour.

    We too, are standing on a “burning platform,” and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour.

    Over the past few months, I’ve shared with you what I’ve heard from our shareholders, operators, developers, suppliers and from you. Today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned and what I have come to believe.

    I have learned that we are standing on a burning platform.

    And, we have more than one explosion – we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us.

    For example, there is intense heat coming from our competitors, more rapidly than we ever expected. Apple disrupted the market by redefining the smartphone and attracting developers to a closed, but very powerful ecosystem.

    In 2008, Apple’s market share in the $300+ price range was 25 percent; by 2010 it escalated to 61 percent. They are enjoying a tremendous growth trajectory with a 78 percent earnings growth year over year in Q4 2010. Apple demonstrated that if designed well, consumers would buy a high-priced phone with a great experience and developers would build applications. They changed the game, and today, Apple owns the high-end range.

    And then, there is Android. In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry’s innovation to its core.

    Let’s not forget about the low-end price range. In 2008, MediaTek supplied complete reference designs for phone chipsets, which enabled manufacturers in the Shenzhen region of China to produce phones at an unbelievable pace. By some accounts, this ecosystem now produces more than one third of the phones sold globally – taking share from us in emerging markets.

    While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind.

    The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.

    We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.

    At the midrange, we have Symbian. It has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms. As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and further behind, while our competitors advance further and further ahead.

    At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, “the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation.” They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.

    And the truly perplexing aspect is that we’re not even fighting with the right weapons. We are still too often trying to approach each price range on a device-to-device basis.

    The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

    This is one of the decisions we need to make. In the meantime, we’ve lost market share, we’ve lost mind share and we’ve lost time.

    On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s informed that they will put our A long term and A-1 short term ratings on negative credit watch. This is a similar rating action to the one that Moody’s took last week. Basically it means that during the next few weeks they will make an analysis of Nokia, and decide on a possible credit rating downgrade. Why are these credit agencies contemplating these changes? Because they are concerned about our competitiveness.

    Consumer preference for Nokia declined worldwide. In the UK, our brand preference has slipped to 20 percent, which is 8 percent lower than last year. That means only 1 out of 5 people in the UK prefer Nokia to other brands. It’s also down in the other markets, which are traditionally our strongholds: Russia, Germany, Indonesia, UAE, and on and on and on.

    How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?

    This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally.

    Nokia, our platform is burning.

    We are working on a path forward — a path to rebuild our market leadership. When we share the new strategy on February 11, it will be a huge effort to transform our company. But, I believe that together, we can face the challenges ahead of us. Together, we can choose to define our future.

    The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same.


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