Can social media revolutionize change management?
What We Did
We conducted secondary research into the effectiveness of current change management approaches, both internally and industry-wide, to understand widely cited research that shows change initiatives fail about 70% of the time, and to take that understanding as a starting point to rethink the change process for success. We also investigated shifts in organizational culture for clues or opportunities on which to build a new change model—and identified a trend from hierarchical to social management structures. We then used academic models of learning to establish our point of view: Effective change programs require a multifaceted process that leverages communication, networking, and integration. This formed the basis around which we are developing an innovative change toolkit.
The rate and scale of organizational change have drastically increased, and modes of communication within companies have dramatically shifted to social media. Traditional change management programs assume a negative emotional transition in which employees must be managed through a grief-like process toward a prescribed outcome. Innovation adoption models, however, assume an inverse curve in which change is taken as positive. Why not transform prescribed methodologies and traditions in change management protocols, and introduce a new expanded framework based on an innovation adoption model?
Our new change model is divided into three parallel and complementary approaches—each reflects a distinct method of conveying information and addresses specific needs for successful change. The first approach, Change Communications, is expertise driven, prescriptive, and structured. Its strategies leverage formal communications platforms and management structures that communicate design strategy and facilitate alignment with company mission and brand. Their goal is to establish a common understanding and vocabulary around change within an organization.
Change Networking strategies are socially driven and responsive. They leverage social media, human capital, and interpersonal networks to foster more informal engagement with the design process. Their goal is to create informal messaging platforms that allow for end-user driven discussion and feedback, and to leverage this engagement to achieve greater and more rapid acceptance of change.
Change Integration strategies then take a bigger picture approach: They are strategically driven and aspirational. They seek connections between design strategy and broader business issues, metrics, and goals. Their goal is to build on the positive disruption created by a new workplace to foster transformational change at the organizational level.
What This Means
The change experience should be positive. By modeling the change program on the process of innovation adoption, we believe there is an opportunity to drastically increase the success rate of change initiatives in organizations.
Change tactics need to be balanced. Involving employees in a multitude of processes recognizes that not all people change the same. We must challenge tradition and shift the approach to address the fact that organizations are more social.
Workplace change can be a platform for organizational change. Greater integration between the design and change process creates overlaps in which work processes can be considered alongside design decisions. This opens up conversations for how workplace change can pair with organizational change or new ways of working.
We continue to gather case studies and test the application of these ideas on client projects. While Change Communications processes are well documented, methods in Change Networking and Change Integration are newer and therefore more in flux. As the use of and comfort with social networking continue to increase, we see opportunities for more dynamic, networked change models to evolve and create new ways to approach change as a positive, innovative process.
Anjali Bhalodia, Reid Brockmeier, Paul Lalli, Amanda Ramos
Comments or ideas for further questions we should investigate?