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Why do companies struggle with change?

Let’s face it, for most change is daunting. It’s human nature to revert to your comfort zone. Unfortunately, in today’s digital world, change is the acceptable norm.

A recent survey found that 68 per cent of marketers feel their role has changed more in the last two years than the previous 50! It’s hard to believe now that 10 years ago nobody had heard of the cloud, the iphone didn’t exist and 20 years ago most people didn’t have an email address.

Therefore the question companies now need to ask is “are we geared up for change?”

How does one manage change?        

The speed of change with today’s technology creates both opportunities and challenges in equal measures. The opportunity to make products and services available instantly to a massive audience is countered by the fear of change, driven mostly by those whose jobs are at risk from the efficiencies created.

There are very few examples of enterprise businesses that have managed to keep up with this rapidly changing world, and those that have normally have such large incomes they can afford to take a chance.

Change has to be led from the top, and supported from the bottom. Telling teams to change will, in our experience, force more resistance to the change, and far worse is a leadership team who don’t believe in the change required. I have often heard boards talk of “the cost of doing nothing”, no risk, no pain, let’s just ride it out.

Taking your team along for the ride during a change process is never going to be easy, and it has to be undertaken quickly and collaboratively. We use creative tools to help develop “whole brain learning” in teams where there are often more left (i.e. logical) than right (i.e. creative) brainers.

There is one universal truth in every business

Change should never be undertaken just for the sake of change, nine times out of ten it will be driven by the customer. I am a firm believer that there is only one universal truth in every business and it’s the customer.

You may think this view too simplistic, too obvious or just too easy, but never underestimate the power of the customer (or end user) when it comes to focusing on what a business (or organisation) needs to prioritise or indeed what it needs to change.

My customer’s customers are my customers. And that sums it up for me, in a world where once the brand was powerful and the customer grateful, today the customers are now very powerful and the brands very grateful.

In one of our biggest projects to date, Transporting for London (TfL) set us the challenge of designing a web service for customers of the largest and most complex transport network in the world – an incredibly exciting brief. The team at TfL were committed to a customer-centric approach, and our role was to ensure that the design delivered on this. In essence, TfL was prepared to take a risk, embrace change to improve the experience for its customers and the feedback has been outstanding.

“Not only has WAE changed the way we work with our customers, it has changed the way we work with ourselves” said Chris Macleod, Marketing director for TfL.

We bring customers into the heart of every client we work with, often by physically setting up a space in the client office and running a program of 'test and learn' where everyone can see both how the customer responds, and the rapid transformation this brings to the business. Our work to transform organisations by empowering teams to think and act in a customer centric way has seen dramatic improvements in both their products and services, and they way they do business.

In summary

There are very few companies that have truly embraced change, fear tends to overrule opportunity. Yet I would argue that digital adoption and change in general are a requirement in any modern business that wants to grow and thrive in today’s economy. There’s a reason Blockbuster went bust while Netflix continues to expand exponentially.

If all this makes you feel worried about making change happen, remember my favourite quote from Nike, “Just Do It” – don’t spend so long thinking and planning that inertia sets in and you miss the opportunity. Take risks, embrace change and reap the rewards.

Chris Averill is CEO of we are experience (wae).