Change was certainly in the news this week — cuts in federal budgets (the planned change no one thought would really happen). Yahoo’s change in telecommuting policies (no telecommuting in high tech? No one saw that coming. More on this later.) As usual, it’s all about change, change, change.
In this whirl of change, the thing to think about is how effectively you ‘do change’. Companies that do change well prepare for change by approaching it strategically and executing it tactically.
To strategically prepare for change, high performing companies:
- Take a longer view of the business –– what is it now? What does it need to be in several years?
- Look at the forces that will affect it, now and in the future — They don’t limit this view to their own industry. They look at the other economic, social, political and environmental issues that may impact them.
- They identify and develop the capabilities needed — I’m working with a client right now to assess what it’s organization will need for a new product introduction that will happen 3-4 years from now and will have significant change on how they do business.
To tactically manage it, they:
- Effectively communicate what the change is, why it’s important, what those impacted will lose and what those impacted will gain. Nothing worse than the people impacted by change feeing like those driving it think it will all be sunshine and happiness along the way.
- Cast a wide net for involvement. Give people a chance to talk about and provide input on how the change will actually happen in their part of the company.
- Make contingencies. It most likely won’t go exactly as planned so have Plans B, C, D…
- Realize that performance may dip briefly after the change is introduced and they give it time take hold.
Making change effectively is about being proactive — not managing it when it happens to you but about making it happen.
What change do you want to make?
Many people have asked my opinion this week about Yahoo’s decision to stop allowing employees to telecommute. While I don’t know the entire situation at Yahoo or what analysis Marissa Mayer used to inform her decision, it appears it may be a meat cleaver approach to a situation that may need a scalpel. While I agree with the premise that you need to feel connected and trust your co-workers to create change and innovation, that can be achieved in many ways. The number of collaboration tools, things as simple as Skype or Apple’s FaceTime, that allow for two or more people to see each other and have conversations are only getting more robust. So to say it can’t be done unless we’re all in the same place is a very narrow view. Not to mention the job satisfaction, performance and retention metrics that seem to indicate a positive correlation to flexibility in the work place.
What may be a bigger issue is the perception that Marissa Mayer isn’t leading this change very well. While telecommuting is not just the realm of mothers, it is perceived as a workplace solution that allows people to balance the demands of doing their job well and managing their personal life well. The same week the policy change hits the media, it was also reported that Mayer is building a nursery, at her own expense, near her office at Yahoo. So, if you think about perception, this seems to say, because of who I am, I can balance my personal life by bringing it to the office. However, the same is not available for you (from what I could find, Yahoo does not provide on site day care for its workforce) and the usual solution isn’t an option. Maybe there is more to the policy and that other changes that allow people to balance their lives are on the way at Yahoo. Right now however, it appears that she is a leader who, as many others before her, is a tone deaf to the impact of change that is perceived as inequitable.