Talking about change in the midst of managing the Coronavirus crisis entails a number of reflections on the type of change and the impact it will have for us. As individuals, corporations and companies. And, consequently, on the social and political system.
The first reflection leads me to make a distinction with respect to the type of change. There are changes sought, desired, active. These are deliberate changes or changes made necessary to achieve improvements in a given situation. In contrast, there are changes that are totally unexpected, not planned and unprecedented such as handling an emergency or an unintended crisis that leads to a seemingly passive dimension.
Focusing for example on organizational change, how can it be faced? One of the keys to its management lies in the reaction, that is, how individuals experience this time.
I consider myself a person predisposed to change. In my life, I have often sought it, both personally and professionally. How do we choose to react? My motto is: anticipate it, then embrace it rather than suffer it! Pursuing change is always a beautiful challenge, it is discontinuity that generates learning: personal, individual, organisational, social. It is always an opportunity for evolution and growth.
Innovation, digital transformation, new means and opportunities available to all have accelerated the time lag between changes. This is why, I speak of transformations, expanding the concept of change. In the times we are living, change will require paradigm shifts, more often than before.
Change in complex organisations is an extremely fascinating challenge. I have often found myself taking on the role of change agent or change sponsor.
The organisation that knows how to think back and transform itself is an organisation that can last over time, that can regenerate and sustain itself. Taking Bayer, a company that is almost 160 years old, as an example, there have been a series of incredible transformations since its foundation. Its last transformation was in 2014/15, for example, when we decided to completely abandon the chemistry business and focus on life sciences, namely, “nutrition and health”. A strong choice dictated by a vision and the awareness that for the sustainability of nutrition and health are of fundamental importance. Bayer, as it has often done in its history, anticipates change and deals with it with courage, determination and great participation of all its employees.
Being able to transfer the motive, the reasons, for why we need to change is a very delicate step, without which it will be very difficult to bring people into this process. I am thinking, for example, of Change Management approaches, where mobilising people around the need for change is crucial. The obligation in this case does not work; people need to be stimulated and helped to internalise this time.
For me, change is closely linked to the concept of vision, so it can only be adventurous and fascinating.
For business leaders and change management, this concept is essential for creating the narrative and storytelling of change. It is the first step to building the vision of the new world, and to engage in it. It is one of the success factors for lasting, sustainable organizational change.
The company of the near future cannot fail to take into account this approach and the social changes that this period will generate in order to be able to restructure processes and reinvent themselves in ways in which individuals and their value will be at the centre.