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Navigating Through Change

Vishal Jacob

Principal Consultant – Change Planning And Transformation

GroupM

Vishal.Jacob@groupm.com

Navigating Through Change

Revisions in governmental policies. A dynamic media landscape. Technology disruptions and the evolving needs of ever-evolving consumers. These are just some of the factors influencing why brands must embrace change.

But even though we’ve all heard that change is inevitable and should be embraced, knowing this does not help us to navigate it. To wit, more than 70% of change initiatives are known to fail!

So, what can we do to safeguard a brand’s stability and give our change initiatives a higher chance of success? I believe the answer lies as much in constantly and habitually preparing for change as in looking more holistically at the problems that invite us to change. The following framework can serve as a useful reference. I like to call it the ADAPT framework because that word is just as meaningful as the five “change factors” that make up the acronym itself.

The ADAPT framework –

1. Assess

Most change planning initiatives fail because they do not begin with a full assessment of the problem at hand. A hurried, incomplete assessment will only lead to making incorrect judgments.

To give just one example: A shoe manufacturing company once attributed its third-quarter decline in sales to its set of new designs. Sale of older designs matched the expected sales curve, but newer designs were simply not picking up. They responded by changing the designs of their new product offerings, churning out a fresh range of patterns. Sales initially picked up, but soon began to plateau and then decline. A deeper analysis then revealed that the issue was not in the design at all, but in the pricing of their new offerings. A clearer understanding of what had caused the slump in sales would have addressed the problem sooner.

During the “Assess” phase, the right questions for a brand to ask are: What is the exact problem to be solved? Why is this a problem? How can we be certain the problem is being attributed to the right source? And finally, what is the change we need to bring in that will address this problem?

2. Drivers of Change

After identifying what change should be brought in, we must choose the best manner of implementing that change. The best option can only be chosen when we identify the many different possible drivers of that change. The more exhaustive this initial list of drivers is, the better.

By way of illustration, consider an IT company that wanted to attract more global clients. They employed a design thinking company to re-brand their assets including their logo, vision statement, office space, website, and more. Toward the end of this revamp, they realized that the most important element for boosting international appeal was a simple tweak: changing how services were described on the company website, to make these offerings more appealing and easily discoverable. This was a small change, involving the least cost, and yet it proved the most vital in driving the change of creating a new perception in the market.

While identifying the right “Drivers of Change,” a brand needs to ask: What are the key levers that can drive the desired change? How can we check if these levers are indeed right? Which of these levers will accelerate change more than the others? Are some of these levers riskier than others? Should they be sequential? How should we prioritize them?

3. Agility

Embracing agility is a given considering that businesses must thrive in a volatile and uncertain environment. Even though the fruits of bringing in a change will usually be seen over a long time frame, if a brand waits until it’s too late, even the best strategy can be a pointless exercise. If one is slow to react, the elements that defined the problem in the first place may even have evolved into an altogether different problem!

Given the time-sensitivity in various change projects, the “Agility” questions one must ask are: How do we ensure agility without compromising quality? What are the roadblocks in the current process that take up time? How can existing processes be audited to identify areas that can become more agile? Will it help to have fewer checkpoints, or to increase them for quicker course correction? Will holding fewer stakeholder meetings help, or simply holding shorter ones?

4. People

During the implementation of change, in every workforce, you will find adopters, resisters, and fence-sitters. Three steps stand out in enabling your people to drive change: First, identify who the adopters are and make them your ambassadors for change. Second, align your communications as frequently as possible with ambassadors and stakeholders to drive the message of change over and over. Third, establish the right systems that will facilitate these dialogues in a manner that drives trust and motivation. Change is a difficult process. A blind repetition of a message of wanting change without first inspiring and motivating your people cannot bear fruit.

The key questions for this “People” factor are: Who are the key stakeholders? Who are my change agents? Who are the resisters? How can I establish a clear line of communication to the key stakeholders?

5. Test

Finally, every change initiative has to have a measurement and evaluation framework. Such frameworks check if the initiatives being taken are driving the desired result. They also help indicate which elements of your change initiatives have worked and which haven’t. The ability to attribute success to the right initiatives will draw the blueprint for your next change initiative, as change planning and navigating change is not a one-time activity but will always be an ongoing one. A continuously measured, tested, and improved change planning ability is the pillar of a steadfast, stable brand in these uncertain times.