Who Drives Change? The People Who Understand It

Disruptions are the norm for businesses. Just in recent weeks, businesses have had to grapple with the fallout of Brexit, trade wars, and supply chain disruptions caused by the new coronavirus. But while such disruptions may not come as a shock to anyone familiar with supply chain management or strategic planning, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to deal with. No, at a time when such disruptions are only becoming more frequent, businesses need support to handle changing business conditions. One way to approach this is by employing strategic change professionals.

Preparing For Change

There are two major types of change that businesses face: unexpected change stemming from market disruption, and planned change based on strategy or other known factors. Take mergers, for example. Business mergers represent a moment of extreme change for all stakeholders, and according to McKinsey, as many as 70% of mergers fail because of poor planning. Such enormous changes require a custom-built strategy, particularly when it comes to communications. Everyone needs to understand what’s at stake and what changes to expect, but who develops that strategy?

Most people would assume that strategic change starts with top executives, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, executives are often caught in patterns that make change nearly impossible. Instead, businesses often benefit most from having major changes spearheaded by a change agent, or a strategic change professional. These professionals know how to get executive buy-in and push dramatic change, not just incremental shifts, when needed.

What Makes A Change Agent?

Strategic change agents don’t necessarily hold a specific role within an organization. Some may be consultants, while others may be part of a selected leadership body, with the hope that they will guide the ship. That means that there’s room for a range of people to move into such a role. What’s more, professionals who choose to learn more about strategic change equip themselves with high demand skills. Such training teaches participants how to create strategies to support corporate change, build agile companies, and communication skills for overcoming stakeholder resistance.

Individuals with special training in strategic change exist on the frontlines of today’s economy, including as part of change teams, made up of stakeholder representatives, and as entrepreneurs themselves. They view business differently because they’re always taking disruptions into account. They build systems around an agile core.

Social Obligations And Strategic Change

Many of the elements that shape strategic change are rooted in the unexpected – Brexit, pandemics, market crashes – but other situations rely on enshrined obligations, specifically expectations rooted in environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). A growing number of companies have committed to such responsible obligations, and they can make a business more competitive. However, if a partner or supplier fails to satisfy ESG obligations, the business needs to be able to pivot quickly. This is when having strategic change-informed individuals on staff, rather than just as consultants, becomes so helpful. These are the people who lead response teams and who can easily see the complexity of different solutions.

Natural disasters, diseases, and economic complexities all contribute to demand for strategic change professionals, but businesses need to recruit to this role before disaster strikes. Building a flexible system that can respond to change is better than reverse engineering a solution under duress. Thinking through strategic change puts you in a position of power, and that’s a competitive advantage.