…and how a steady pace should still be maintained
Companies today are going through a very volatile business environment where new technologies are changing the industries, customers’ preferences are constantly changing and companies need to adapt to the changes rapidly. But managing such a rapid yet cautious change is a challenge for any company today. I have previously written about how to manage change and suggested a framework (you can read about it here); here I discuss about one of the criteria for managing a successful change or transformation strategy: Pacing.
Definition of Pace in Change: not constant
Pace is, in english, defined as the rate of movement, or the speed. In change strategies, pace could be defined as the speed at which the company tries to change certain aspects of its business, such as business units, the technology used or the culture, and the speed at which the change strategy is really implemented. This pace is never constant when you are changing or transforming your business; the pace of change is always volatile because uncertainities exist in the business world.
For instance, if a company predicts that it would take around 3 months to adapt a new technology or a manufacturing practice, the top management may realise that the employees are not open to the new manufacturing practice or they are finding it not so easy to adapt to the new automated work environment. The company could have anticipated it to be easy and useful for its employees but they might not have taken into consideration that mental models that govern the employees’ actions. So now, the company needs to educate its employees and change their mindset first and this would include changing the culture of the employees. Now, the change strategy might take 6 months to be actually implemented.
But how can such uncertainities and even the entire change strategy and its pace can be managed? I suggest, pacing of a change strategy should constitute of two elements: radical or high-paced change and incremental or slow-paced change.
The company should set different milestones along the duration when the company predicts change would happen. Then these milestones should be used to set goals that need to be met. For instance, a company might predict that a change strategy would take 3 years and it could divide this period into 6 milestones of 6 months each (or each milestone could be of different duration). At the milestones, all the radical changes need to be planned such as adapting a new technology or entering a new market horizontally or vertically or even launching new revolutionary products. In between these milestones, the company should focus on the incremental changes such as educating its employees, changing the culture and evaluating the change tactics carried out at the previous milestones.
Advantages of pacing
By evaluating the change tactics carried out at the previous milestones, the company can understand what models are working and what models are not working, and adjust the change strategy at the next milestone.
These slow-momentum periods, between the milestones, also help the company educate and get ready the key players who do not like the status quo to change. Because of these carefully planned slow-momentum periods, these key players will understand that the top management is focussed on change.
Pacing also helps the companies to estimate the resources and efforts it needs to invest to achieve the intermediate goals at the milestones.
It is known that dividing a large task into small manageable tasks makes it easier to achieve the goals.
PhD candidate at LUISS Guido Carli, Rome in Business and Management. Writes about Doing PhD, Innovation, Change Management, Organizational Behaviour, Organizational Learning, Strategy Management and more.