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The 3 C’s of Change Leadership

The 3 C’s of Change Leadership

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Great Change Leaders Focus on People & Process

Successful change is one of the biggest problems that modern organizations face. In our fast-changing world, the strategic imperative to change is often clear: Without doing things differently, our company is unlikely to succeed, or last.

But change-management research has demonstrated time after time that organizational change initiatives fail more often than they succeed, despite the resources put into creating change management processes.

We know that effective leadership is essential to successful change. But we wanted to understand the differences in leadership between successful and unsuccessful change efforts. That’s why we recently conducted a study where we asked 275 senior executives to reflect on successful and unsuccessful change efforts they’d led.

Our goal was to characterize “change-capable leadership,” define the key leadership competencies necessary for change, and better understand leadership behaviors that could contribute to change failures.

The executives we surveyed were all participants in our Leadership at the Peak program, which targets executives with more than 15 years of management experience, responsibility for 500 or more people, and decision-making authority as members of top management teams. All of them were seasoned leaders.

Our study, the full results of which are available in our white paper, revealed 9 critical leadership competencies of successful change efforts. The 9 change competencies can be further divided into 3 main categories — what we call “the 3 C’s of change,” leading the process, and leading people.

The 3 C’s of Change Leadership

Researchers found that 3 skills provide the necessary connection between the process part of change and the people part of change. These 3 C’s unite effective change leadership:

1. Communicate. Unsuccessful leaders tended to focus on the “what” behind the change. Successful leaders communicated the “what” and the “why.” Leaders who explained the purpose of the change and connected it to the organization’s values or explained the benefits created stronger buy-in and urgency for the change.

2. Collaborate. Bringing people together to plan and execute change is critical. Successful leaders worked across boundaries, encouraged employees to break out of their silos, and refused to tolerate unhealthy competition. They also included employees in decision-making early on, strengthening their commitment to change. Unsuccessful change leaders failed to engage employees early and often in the change process.

3. Commit. Successful leaders made sure their own beliefs and behaviors supported change, too. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiated it successfully were resilient and persistent, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. They also devoted more of their own time to the change effort and focused on the big picture. Unsuccessful leaders failed to adapt to challenges, expressed negativity, and were impatient with a lack of results.

Leading the Process of Change

Strategic change doesn’t happen on its own. Effective leaders guide the process from start to finish. Here are the 3 key competencies that are part of leading the process:

  • Initiate. After understanding the need for change, effective change leaders begin by making the case for the change they seek. This can include evaluating the business context, understanding the purpose of the change, developing a clear vision and desired outcome, and identifying a common goal. Unsuccessful leaders say they didn’t focus on these tasks enough to reach a common understanding of the goal. Learn more about the challenges to leading change efforts in our article, 3 Steps for Successfully Implementing Change in an Organization.
  • Strategize. Successful leaders developed a strategy and a clear action plan, including priorities, timelines, tasks, structures, behaviors, and resources. They identified what would change, but also what would stay the same. Leaders who weren’t successful said they failed to listen enough to questions and concerns, and failed to define success from the beginning.
  • Execute. Translating strategy into execution is one of the most important things leaders can do. In our study, successful change leaders focused on getting key people into key positions (or removing them, in some cases). They also broke big projects down into small wins to get early victories and build momentum. And they developed metrics and monitoring systems to measure progress. Unsuccessful change leaders sometimes began micromanaging, got mired in implementation details, and failed to consider the bigger picture.

Remember that, as organizations evolve over time, stability and change must coexist — which is not a problem to solve but a polarity to manage. To help your organization achieve its full potential, acknowledge both poles simultaneously. When change leaders find the sweet spot of “both/and,” they can present the change effort in a way that others can embrace.

Leading People Through Change

While formal change processes might be well understood, too many leaders neglect the all-important human side of change. The most effective leaders devoted considerable effort to engaging everyone involved in the change and remembered that people need time to adapt to change — no matter how fast-moving the change initiative. They exhibit these 3 crucial qualities of leading people:

  • Support. Successful change projects were characterized by leaders removing barriers to employee success. These include personal barriers such as wounded egos and a sense of loss, as well as professional barriers such as the time and resources necessary to carry out a change plan. Leaders of unsuccessful change focused exclusively on results, so employees didn’t get the support they needed for the change.
  • Sway. Influence is about gaining not only compliance but also the commitment necessary to drive change. It is also about mapping out the critical change agents and defining what “buy-in” looks like from each stakeholder that will lead to a successful outcome. Effective leaders identified key stakeholders — including board members, C-suite executives, clients, and others — and communicated their vision of successful change to them. Unsuccessful leaders told us they were more likely to avoid certain stakeholders rather than try to influence them.
  • Learn. Finally, successful change leaders never assumed they had all the answers. They asked lots of questions and gathered formal and informal feedback. The input and feedback allowed them to make continual adjustments during the change. In the case of unsuccessful changes, leaders didn’t ask as many questions or gather accurate information, which left them without the knowledge they needed to make appropriate adjustments along the way.

In navigating change, resiliency is required because it helps people handle change’s inherent pressure, uncertainty, and setbacks. Leaders need to build their own reserves and resiliency, in support of their mental and physical health. They also can guide others to face change in healthy and sustainable ways. Learn 3 practices to strengthen resilience in our article, Leadership Resiliency: Handling Stress, Uncertainty, and Setbacks.

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Three Tips For Managing Resistance To Change

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Change happens every day in organizations all over the world. Yet for many people, change can be scary.

Many of us like to hold on to a sense of safety and security. We get comfortable doing things a certain way, so being asked to do something differently can trigger emotions such as anger, frustration, depression, fear and anxiety. When we feel threatened by change, many of us find creative ways to push back and hold on to the status quo. I’ve noticed that even the most cooperative, supportive employees may resist change.

Even if the change initiative is intended to improve your employees’ situation, some of them may resist it because they believe that the change is not beneficial for them. They may believe that it will somehow negatively impact their work, violate their values in some way or threaten their finances, their health or their well-being. Some employees may worry about not being able to successfully adapt their behavior. Or they may not trust the people who are communicating the change or have observed previous poor handling of change in the organization.

It’s usually not the change itself that challenges us; it’s the psychological transition we experience that ultimately leads to success or failure. According to McKinsey & Company, “70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.”

Bottom line: Your team members’ resistance can make or break your change initiative. The question is not whether you will encounter resistance, but rather how you can best manage that resistance and support your team throughout the change process. Leading people through the transition is essential for your organization to achieve its desired outcomes.

Effective change management can erode much of this resistance. As a Prosci Certified Change Practitioner, I’ve found that the key is to expect and plan for resistance and identify how you can best encourage buy-in and commitment. If you don’t take the time to do so, you may experience project delays, lower productivity, higher costs, inefficiencies, turnover of valued employees, changes not being fully implemented or even the change being totally scrapped.

To avoid these potential outcomes, develop a plan to mitigate the impact of resistance. Here are three strategies to get you started:

Identify The Root Causes Of Resistance  

Many times, leaders manage resistance by responding to the observable symptoms, such as employee complaints, lower meeting attendance or employees simply not doing what they’ve been asked to do. However, focusing on the symptoms won’t solve the underlying problem that created the behaviors in the first place. To effectively navigate employee resistance, look deeper into the root causes.

Begin by considering the likely sources of resistance, such as employees who are the most invested in the current way of doing work and those who can expect to have their work negatively impacted as a result of the change. Once you have identified these individuals or groups, hold a series of discussions or workshops about the upcoming change. Give employees the opportunity to express their points of view in a nonjudgmental environment, and truly listen to their objections.

Then, find ways to address these barriers. For example, one of the best ways to overcome objections and build the desire for change is to offer choices. When possible, provide your team members with simple and clear choices along with the consequences of those choices. Put the ownership and control back into their hands. This can move them out of the position of victim and into the role of advocate, so rather than focusing on what they can’t control, they can feel empowered to focus on what they can create given the circumstances.

Involve Senior Leaders

Prosci found that “active and visible executive sponsorship” is the top contributor to the success of change initiatives.If senior leaders don’t commit to the change, or if they waver in their support, employees may perceive the change as unimportant and therefore resist it.

Here are three things you can do as a leader to demonstrate your commitment and involvement:

1. Be present and seen by employees from the start of the change initiative until the end.

2. Build a coalition of sponsors made up of other leaders and influencers who will give the change credibility and help manage resistance.

3. Communicate directly with employees to express the vision and reasons for the change.

Communicate The Change

How you communicate the change is the factor that often most affects how much resistance to change will occur. Employees must believe that the change is needed now, and they must clearly understand what might happen if the organization doesn’t change.

The key is to tell a compelling story to capture and leverage the passion and positive emotions surrounding the change. Describe the future state to inspire people to share in your vision. Include in this vision how individual employees fit into the new organization and how the change will benefit their careers. Be genuine and communicate the change with certainty. If you hesitate, you may introduce doubt. Align your tone of voice and body language with your message. Use positive language. Make sure you use a higher ratio of positive words versus negative/neutral words by avoiding limiting words like “should,” “must” or “can’t.” When individuals fully understand the benefits that the change will offer them, you’ll likely notice that much of the resistance disappears.

Additionally, employees must feel confident that they will receive the appropriate training and support to successfully adapt to the change. Imagine being asked to do something — to behave in a different way —without understanding specifically how to do it. Take the time to clarify expectations, assess the gaps in skills and knowledge that are necessary to support the change, and provide sufficient learning opportunities to fill those gaps.

Resistance is a natural reaction to change. Change can be uncomfortable and often requires a new mindset and behavior. However, you have the power to mitigate that resistance by supporting individuals throughout the change process and helping them realize the full benefits of the change.

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Three Tips For Managing Resistance To Change
Building An Effective Business Case For Change Management

Building An Effective Business Case For Change Management

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Change management is a structured approach designed to ensure end users and adopters understand why changes in an organization are occurring and inevitably adopt and utilize the resulting new systems. Change management is a necessary component to project success because if business users to do not adopt new systems then organizations do not achieve their target business outcomes.

The business case for change management is pretty clear and logical, yet organizations often try to cut budget corners. Next time you find yourself in a meeting making the case for change management, try asking this simple question, “Are the target business outcomes we are trying to achieve dependent on stakeholders changing how they do their job?” For each target business outcome where the answer is yes, ask the follow up question, “What percentage of this outcome results from stakeholders doing their job differently?”

In most cases this is a very powerful exercise when seeking to obtain manager buy-in for including change management in a SOW. Of course if your project involves switching network servers there is going to be very little requisite change involved for employees. But if your project involves new processes, technology, KPI’s, etc., then odds are the realistic answer to the question is somewhere around 75%.

No matter how telling the answer is, sometimes it is not enough. To further support your pitch for change management, I am going to provide three approaches to building a business case for change management. The perspectives I am providing below are intended to alter the view of change management from “nice to have” to “must have”.


Cost Avoidance

Businesses suffer significant added costs when organizational change is poorly managed. Additional resources are required to fix the process or solution, and time is needed to retrain and satisfy disgruntled employees. Other costs that can be expected are: plunges in productivity, customer and supplier impacts, loss of valued employees, reduced quality of work, declining employee morale, stress, confusion, and added resistance.

Separate from these organizational costs are project-specific costs. These costs and disruptions include: project delays, missed milestones, loss of resources, budget miscalculations, unexpected obstacles, and rework required to correct mistakes. In a nutshell, the organization fails to receive the value the project was intended to produce and the initial project investments are lost.

Change management is an effective cost avoidance approach we can use to mitigate these negative consequences.

Risk Mitigation

More than likely risk analysis is already included in your organizations standard project management methodology. A strong approach to assessing the importance of change management is to conduct employee-dependent risk alongside financial risk, security risks, and any other risks your organization may already be conducting.

When change is not properly planned for and managed the organization, project, and stakeholders are all subject to risk. Refer back to the question we discussed earlier “What percentage of achieving the target business outcomes associated with your project depend on people changing how they do their job?”    Whether the answer is a lot or a little, if it includes changes to responsibilities, behaviors, processes, systems or tools, your project has people-dependent risk.
Change management is a powerful risk mitigation solution. When change management is done well organizations achieve their project objectives and employees walk away feeling satisfied, motivated and accomplished.

Benefits Realization

If employees do not understand why changes are being made, embrace the future state, and possess both the knowledge and skillsets required to successfully operate in the to-be state, projects do not achieve the intended results. Change management is an approach designed to ensure users graduate through this process. Think of change management as an insurance policy to protect your organization’s project investment.

Whatever percentage of achieving your project’s target business outcomes can be tied to people changing how they do their jobs is the percentage that can be insured through change management.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCEAll three of these approaches are highly effective, but there is no one size fits all solution. The priorities of managers and stakeholders will vary from company to company and department to department. Before making a decision about the perspective to take, it is important to consider your audience.    §  What are the current pain points creating a need in the first place?    §  What are the goals and objectives of this individual or team?    §  How is the performance of the prospect you are pitching to measured?

If you are presenting to a COO this individual might be most interested in cost avoidance. For a CIO the most successful approach will likely be to focus on risk mitigation. CPO’s are most concerned with cost reduction and efficiency gains, so benefits realization will more often than not yield the best results. The bottom line is in order to close your sale or obtain internal stakeholder buy-in for change management, your success is going to hinge on your efforts to develop a targeted approach.

The next time you find yourself developing a business case for change management, reflect back on these approaches. Consider your audience and their concerns, then select the value perspective(s) that will be most compelling.

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“Re-entry will be one of the biggest change management moments we’ve ever experienced.”

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Businesses are playing it safe in bringing employees back to the office.

From Los Angeles to Miami, most U.S. cities are pushing ahead with reopening their economies, meaning businesses can begin to bring employees back to their offices, as long as local and state rules are followed. 

Yet even with the green light, many companies are being cautious with the daunting task of the return and a desire to get it right with employees, says Anthea Hoyle, EVP at United Minds, Weber Shandwick’s management consulting group. United Minds launched a workforce re-entry practice last month. 

“Re-entry will be one of the biggest change management moments we’ve ever experienced,” she says. 

Hoyle notes that while businesses shut down literally overnight because of the pandemic and quickly figured out how to operate with a displaced staff, “we are seeing the opposite now. Clients are keeping their offices closed even though they can reopen.”

“They are saying, ‘Great to know the government supports reopening, but are we ready? Not just our operations, but from a people perspective?’” Hoyle explains. “During shutdown, people were being prioritized above commercial interests, and that principle is thankfully carrying through to the reopening phase.” 

After all of the work of putting people first during the shutdown, the last thing companies want to do now is force employees back with a “checklist” of how to keep safe, she says. Instead, companies should take their cues from their teams by keeping a pulse on their emotional state. 

“If part of their anxiety is not wanting to come back, that it feels too soon, then it is really understanding how you can be flexible and make them feel comfortable, regardless of where they work,” says Hoyle. 

At least one United Minds client has made work-from-home its default option for employees, at least until 2022. 

“This client recognized that some employees feel more productive on-site, and if they’re also comfortable with measures to make that site safer, then they can opt-in to work at the office,” she says. “It allows employees to have a choice in where they feel most productive and safe working.” 

Another best practice is to identify and follow an office capacity cap, which will help with social distancing and reduce workforce anxiety. 

“We’re hearing a range of 10% to 25% from clients,” says Hoyle. “I think the number fluctuates depending on the logistics of the space and safety measures in place.” 

Rodrigo Castro, Miami-based VP of technology for BCW, is also seeing office capacity caps of about 25%. 

“Offices started opening at the end of May in Miami, but very, very slowly,” says Castro, who, like the rest of the BCW workforce, continues to work from home. 

Some companies have shuttered their headquarters altogether. This week, the Miami Herald said it is planning to move out of its office in August and that “employees will continue to work remotely through the end of the year.” After that, the media outlet will find “a new centralized home,” one that presumably will make social distancing and other protective measures easier to implement. 

In other cases, “clients are reviewing how to restructure the office before having employees return,” says Castro.

Some media companies have been long known for having open-concept workplaces, and other employers have adopted similar layouts to foster collaboration and creativity, such as brand newsrooms and many PR agencies.

However, most employees don’t want to return to these environments, according to research from the Harris Poll and the Institute for Public Relations. A poll of more than 800 full-time employees in mid-May found 80% agreed that employers should move towards sectioned-off offices and phase out open-space offices. Employees should also be allowed to work from home until they feel comfortable to return, 81% of respondents said.

“This is a great time to rethink brick-and-mortar spaces and rethink the future of work,” says Julie Batliner, president of Carmichael Lynch Relate. “It’s a time to notice what is working about remote working and find a long-term plan to carry that forward.” 

She adds that agencies and companies should not assume that “back to normal” is the right message. 

“What people miss about the pre-COVID in-office environment is not going to be the way it is when they return due to safety protocol,” Batliner explains. “It’s about helping people understand that, and adjust their thinking.” 

Both the agency’s Minneapolis headquarters and New York City office are servicing clients virtually, but Batliner says agency leadership is rethinking how the two locations can be used once they do open.

Other agency leaders say they may continue their work-from-home policies until the end of the year. Some are pondering if they need the same amount of square footage in an office if a part of the staff will always be working remotely. 

Patty Barry, principal of Matter, encourages businesses to remember all the great virtual tools they’ve developed to keep employees motivated and engaged. Matter has been working with Xandr, the advertising and analytics division of AT&T, to create a video series, shot on smartphones, spotlighting how employees and executive leaders are staying connected.

Barry says clients have an opportunity to “build upon some of the unexpectedly great new ways we are working together at this moment,” like video chats and cross-office collaboration. 

Workplaces with on-the-ground staff 

Many types of non-office environments have no choice but to bring employees back into a physical space. However, calling them back in and falling to alleviate their fears would be a recipe for disaster, warns Suzanne Miller, founder and president of Dallas-based SPM Communications. 

She points to Hillstone Restaurant Group, which was returning to 25% capacity in its dining rooms, but banned waiters from wearing face masks. An employee called leadership out on social media.   

“The restaurant had a snarky statement on their website telling people if they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to come. Social media had a field day, and traditional media jumped in soon after,” says Miller. “The restaurant rescinded their policy quickly, but their reputation may be permanently damaged.”

She adds that “the store or restaurant employee is the face of the brand and the key touchpoint for consumers.”

“Having those employees on board and modeling the brand’s stance on precautions to the consumer was everything – nothing communicates a brand’s stance more clearly than seeing what the employees do,” says Miller. 

Fast-food chains such as McDonald’s are trying to be thorough with employee protocols. It has issued a 59-page guide to reopening dining rooms, and PRWeek confirmed that the brand has established a taskforce with franchisees to evaluate the reopening of the dining rooms. 

But are consumers ready? 

With employees on board, SPM Communications worked with Gold’s Gym on the reopening of hundreds of gyms in the U.S. It surveyed members about their willingness to get back into gyms with safety and sanitation protocols. 

With its gyms open, the fitness chain is using email, social media and its website to talk to existing and potential members. It also invited key media to experience some of the changes themselves. 

“Because we’ve invited media into our gyms and been transparent about our reopening plans and what we’re doing to provide a safe environment, the positive coverage has helped members (and potential new members) understand and become comfortable with our temporary new normal,” says Adam Zeitsiff, president and CEO of Gold’s Gym. 

Even if employees are ready and willing for a physical return, Batliner agrees businesses have to factor in whether consumers and clients are ready. 

To that end, Carmichael Lynch Relate has developed the CLEffect Covid-19 Tracker, a tool that helps businesses determine when to reopen brick-and-mortar locations based on markets and the type of customer messaging most appropriate to the customer mindset.

The tool takes mindset, along with information about how the virus is spreading, state and local regulations, economic indicators and media activity for the competitive set, and overlays it with client sales data – both online and brick and mortar – to come to a recommendation. 

“There are various stages of mindset for the pandemic including denial, anxiety, adjustment, re-evaluation, new-normal and next-normal,” says Batliner.

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“Re-entry will be one of the biggest change management moments we’ve ever experienced.”
Change Management Strategies For Getting Back To Work: 10 Ways To Ensure Success

Change Management Strategies For Getting Back To Work: 10 Ways To Ensure Success

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The coronavirus pandemic has thrust every business and leader into a situation of managing change and thinking about how to get people on board for what comes next. In retrospect, the giant social experiment in which organizations suddenly sent everyone home was the easy part. The bigger challenge will be to bring people back to the workplace—because nothing will be the same in the short term—and perhaps not in the longer term either.

At its core, change management principles are solid and they apply in multiple situations. Providing a vision for the future, engaging people, reducing perceived costs of a change—all of these make sense and are so foundational they cannot be wrong. And yet, the pandemic has turned everything upside down, so the change management associated with how people will come back to the office requires a new view, new practices and new expectations.

Here’s what’s changed about change management, and what to do about it:

Messaging And Motivation

The why. Motivating people to change requires you provide a compelling “why”, and this will be especially critical as you bring people back to the office. The barriers that kept companies from allowing people to work from home have been decimated and many teams have proven their work can be done quite successfully without commutes, campuses or conference rooms. But as the saying goes, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” At the same time the work can get done outside the office, physical places also provide critical benefits for people. They satisfy the human need to connect, build energy through co-creation, provide for memory and reflection, reinforce shared purpose and so much more. Communicate your why based on the mission of your overall business, the value you create for your customers and how people’s work contributes to these. Be clear about how the change—bringing people back to the office—matters to all elements of your why. People must understand and appreciate these to be motivated to change.

Vision. Another critical element of managing change successfully is creating a compelling vision of the future. Your vision should include, but go beyond your why and focus on the future, painting a vivid—and hopefully optimistic—picture of what people can expect. While none of us has a crystal ball, it may help to use the design thinking concepts of “now, near and far.” Provide a view of what will happen in the short-term of the now, the medium-term of the near and the longer-term of the far. It may also help to consider a pre-vaccine future and a post-vaccine future. The clarity you can provide may be greater in the short-term pre-vaccine future, but the optimism you are able to supply may be greater for the far, post-vaccine world. Inform your messaging with both. 

Expectations. People don’t trust what they don’t understand. The challenges for the pre-vaccine return to the workplace is people will be coming back to something completely different than what they knew before. How they get to the office, how they enter the building, how many people can ride the elevator, where they work throughout the day, whether they have food service and even how many people can access the restroom will be different. Give people as many details as possible about what to expect and help them understand how their work will be accomplished under new conditions.

The costs. A fundamental truth in change management is people will not be motivated to change if they perceive the costs of changing to be greater than the benefits of staying the same. You’ll need to reassure people about how you’re protecting them and ensuring their health and safety. Perception is reality, so messaging will be important, but what people can sense and see will be even more critical. When they enter the building will it smell clean? Will they see cleaning crews working regularly? Will they experience signage that guides them in social distancing? Ensure you’re reducing the risks people face coming back—both real and perceived.

Focusing On People

Choice and control. People don’t resist change; they resist being changed. And they need to be empowered to make their own decisions following the pandemic even more so than through other transitions. Employees will have varying levels of comfort with coming back to the office. They’ll be concerned with everything from their own health and the health of those close to them to whether they’ll be able to see, hear and communicate adequately while wearing a mask. Give people as many options as possible about when and how they come back. Also, be clear about whether employees’ jobs demand their presence, and the consequences if they choose not to return—so they can make informed decisions.

Engagement. While a lot of the guidelines or protocols you’re putting in place may be federally or state-mandated and therefore require leadership decision making, remember to engage people as much as possible. Consider how you might involve people in creating responses and solutions. The “what” may be mandated, but you may be able to give people a chance to influence the “how.” Temperature checks may be required for entry to the building, but employees could provide input on whether there are staggered start times or multiple check locations. Give people the chance to work on a task force or respond to a survey about how things get done. You clearly can’t give everyone a vote but give them a voice where possible.

Behaviors. Of course, it’s easier to make rules than it is to get people to follow them. As you’re developing new protocols, give thought to what will motivate employees to buy-in and act in new ways. They will likely be good corporate citizens and do their best to follow requirements, but the way to get people committed and motivated is through their connection to others. Help people understand how the rules contribute to a colleague’s wellbeing or a teammate’s grandmother’s health. Our humanity and responsibility to each other are the best motivators.

Empathy. Overall, people want to know you care. Ensure you’re delivering messages with compassion and empathy. Remember it’s not just about sharing facts, figures or new procedures. It’s also about the extent to which people feel you’re supporting them—not just in the office but throughout their whole work experience. Attend to people’s physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing and safety. Also, be patient with people. When they are under stress, people are rarely at their best and more conflict may occur. Be firm about the values that guide how people interact with each other, but within these, give people time and grace as we’re all learning together. There will be bad days, good days and better days.

Value. Let people know they are valued. Some companies are making the mistake of inviting people back to the office based on who is “essential” or “nonessential” in their business. What they mean, of course, is whether people’s essential work must be accomplished in the office. Be sure your messaging reinforces everyone’s value. Rather than an “A” group and a “B” group who are invited back (who wants to be a “B player”?), one company is using colors: the “blue group” or the “yellow group.” Avoid the unintended messages that may cause people to feel like “haves” or “have-nots.”  

Culture Is Key

Culture. Organizational culture is “the way things get done around here” and “what people do when no one is looking.” It is context for people’s actions and decisions and one of the most significant competitive advantages you have. People can copy your marketing or your product, and they can access your customers, but it’s nearly impossible to mirror your culture. The way you the way you lead the change will both reflect and shape your culture. It will matter if you are heavy-handed and authoritarian in your leadership approach or are short-sighted and narrow-minded in your decisions. And it will matter if you demonstrate you value people and balance the needs of the business, or if you engage people and enhance their trust.

The uncertainty and volatility of the pandemic could lead you to act in a way that isn’t your best, but the choices that guide the organization through this change will have an incredible long-term influence. Your character is demonstrated through difficult times and company culture is similar. The window to your organization’s values, integrity and its leaders’ ability to navigate this crisis will have a lasting impact. It’s a lot of pressure, yes, but it’s also a lot of opportunity to influence a bright future.

Managing change is tricky, but rarely more challenging than when the whole world is changing at the same time. Clarify your why, communicate your compelling vision and set clear expectations for people. Reduce the real and perceived costs of change and provide choice and control for employees. Engage people and motivate them based on their relationships with each other. Ensure you’re demonstrating empathy and valuing people and recognize how your actions and decisions will impact your culture. Change management is hard. It will continue to be hard. But done well, it is an unmatched opportunity to motivate people and create a positive future for your company.

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Change Management: What the Coronavirus Crisis Revealed

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Effective change management can help organizations pivot quickly, decisively, and effectively, even when—perhaps especially when—unforeseen circumstances strike. And while each business is unique, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Accounting firms are certainly familiar with change. Market dynamics, shifting stakeholder expectations, regulatory rule-making—all this and more compel the profession to be agile.

Traditionally, many companies tackle change on a project by project basis. But the pace has picked up in recent years, exposing a potential capability gap when it comes to managing change. At Deloitte, we realized our Audit & Assurance business needed to consider a different approach if we wanted to adapt to future opportunities and challenges. Here’s what we did—and what the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed about it.

A response to disruption

For us, the catalyst to rethink our approach to change management was digital disruption in the 2010s. As it took hold, we found ourselves dealing with change almost constantly. No longer was it practical to assemble and onboard a project team for every new digital initiative—and there were lots of them.

So we decided to create an in-house change management capability. This has provided several benefits over a project-based approach, including:

  • Readiness to execute
  • An active sphere of influence within the organization
  • A deep understanding of the business—including strategy, operations, and culture

With those outcomes in mind, we built a dedicated team of change management specialists to support our Audit & Assurance business. Since then, a capability that started out as a response to digitizing our business has also helped us address changes in accounting and auditing standards, evolving stakeholder demands, and other sweeping developments. But when the COVID-19 crisis struck, it put our change management team to one of its greatest tests.

The escalating COVID-19 threat

Like other organizations, our audit teams ordinarily work in an office-based setting, often onsite at the client’s location. In a matter of days, this decades-long delivery model gave way to a virtual working environment—for us and clients—as the COVID-19 threat escalated.

This kind of transition would have been much more challenging without a change management capability. Our change management specialists were able to implement much of what was needed on very short notice, including equipping professionals to effectively work from home. At the same time, we developed a multi-dimensional task force to resolve emerging issues and opened communication channels to help keep people informed: newsletters, online resource centers, twice-weekly webcasts, a mobile news app to share real-time updates, and an emergency support email box. We also launched a social media-based photo campaign and online crowdsourcing site to keep our people feeling connected.

The result, we were able to carry out our work despite extraordinary circumstances with minimal impact to client delivery. Once again, a capability we had invested in years earlier, and continue to invest in, helped us step up in a way we hardly expected.

Fundamentals of the capability

The COVID-19 crisis illustrates how a change management capability can help companies cope with dramatic shifts in the business environment. But it also highlights important attributes that a capability like this should have. Among them:

Executive-level attention. With a seat at the executive committee table, our change management team was on top of and in tune with leadership’s thinking right from the start. That positioned the team to execute at any point, even as more of our engagement teams and clients felt the impact of COVID-19 and executive guidance evolved in tandem.

Sensitivity to timing. The COVID-19 crisis broke just as engagement teams were completing audits for calendar year and first-quarter filers. Because of the timing, it was imperative that any change took place seamlessly and with minimal interruption to our clients and professionals.

An open dialogue with key stakeholders. Businesses andorganizations around the world are working through their response plans to the pandemic, such as how to transition to a virtual workforce and manage filing deadlines in a virtual environment. A change management function should stay in close contact with key stakeholders (clients and regulators in our case) and develop a plan for varied scenarios.

These attributes have a common thread, which is to look across the extended enterprise to see where changes might land. Any given initiative has its stakeholders, and they can be more fragmented than you might expect. Internally, for example, leaders may need different information from employees. An effective change management capability reflects these nuances and shapes itself to meet the demand by tailoring actions and communications to be impactful for the intended audience.

Key considerations of change management

With that, what should you consider as you set up a change management capability of your own? Here are three principles to start with:

Collaborate. Bring training, communications, and other relevant functions into your change management structure. All likely have a deep understanding of your organization’s culture relative to receiving, absorbing, and acting on information and have developed practices—formal or informal—that can help a given change to take hold. And don’t expect these functions to wait for orders—they can be much more productive when they have input into what the business is trying to achieve.

Monitor. Carefully define your desired outcomes upfront. Goals can be qualitative (such as employee awareness, buy-in, and behavioral change) as well as quantitative (such as training attendance, speed of execution, and performance improvements). The key is to set up ways to measure them, then track your progress throughout the transformation effort.

Refine. It’s critical to be highly attuned to the sentiment across your organization and remain flexible in your approach to driving change. Are people truly embracing what you’re trying to implement? How do they feel about it? What are the pain points? Subjective as it seems, feedback like this can help you refine your change management capability so it can address a growing portfolio of use cases, new business models, and competitive realities. 

Full article with thanks to

Change Management: What the Coronavirus Crisis Revealed
How Does Organizational Culture Affect Change?

How Does Organizational Culture Affect Change?

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Culture is one among many factors that influence a company’s ability to change.

A few of these include:

  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • External circumstances, such as customer needs and desires

Among many other things.

When developing an organizational change project, change practitioners should examine all of these factors in detail.

Each factor will have a different weight, depending on the organization’s unique circumstances.

Let’s look at some of these factors in more detail.

Factors that Affect Organizational Change

From business processes to culture to finance, there are many things that can influence change projects … for better or for worse.

Change managers must review all of these before beginning a change project. 

Here are some of the most important:

  • Customer Needs – What do the customers actually want? If your products or services don’t meet their needs, for instance, it is time to evolve your product to meet those demands.
  • Competitor Pressure – If competitors are pushing forward, developing better products, and creating better value propositions, then it’s time to adapt.
  • Executive Leadership – Executive leadership can either spearhead change … or hold it back. When the time is right for change, it’s critical to obtain executive support early on. 
  • Budget – Budget is one of the biggest concerns for any business endeavor. It can influence change projects in general, as well as programs aimed at cultural change.
  • Tools and Technology – Technology can facilitate change, or even be the central focus of change. But it can also become a barrier to organizational change, especially when employees are reluctant or budgets are tight. 
  • Existing Business Processes – Inertia and clinging to the familiar can keep people locked into old processes for far too long. This, in turn, hurts a business’s adaptability and agility.
  • Culture – Culture also plays a pivotal role in any change project … people can either support change with enthusiasm, be apathetic, or actively resist change.

Though all of these factors play critical roles in any change project, culture remains a top focus for change managers.

How Does Organizational Culture Affect Change?

Some of the aforementioned factors that affect change are very black and white.

You either have the budget for change or you don’t.

Customers either need a new feature or they don’t.

When people become involved, though, the situation becomes more complex.

Employee support depends on:

  • What’s in it for them – that is, how they will benefit from a change
  • How much extra work is involved
  • How the end result will impact their jobs, their salaries, their long-term career prospects, and so forth
  • Their general attitudes towards change, new ideas, and new things

This last point is where culture comes in – because it can be viewed as the “central pillar” that strongly influences many of these other factors.

What Makes a “Good” Corporate Culture?

There is no such thing as a “good” corporate culture – any more than there is such a thing as a “good” flavor of ice cream.

It’s all relative.

One corporation may be competitive, driven, and fast-paced.

Another may be relaxed, social, and slow-paced.

However, today’s marketplace is continually changing. This means that corporations geared towards continual change will be more likely to survive and succeed in the coming years.

To see why, let’s set the stage by describing today’s economic climate:

  • Technology is causing massive, global disruption. New technological innovations, from the internet to the mobile phone, are fueling disruptive changes. A short time ago, both of these were barely conceivable – but today, businesses that aren’t using both are at a strong competitive disadvantage.
  • Innovative companies that can disrupt and transform are those most likely to succeed and dominate. Today’s top companies are all technology companies. Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook – in just a few short years, they have eclipsed the former global leaders. This seismic shift demonstrates the massive power behind technology and innovation.
  • In such a fast-paced environment, speed and adaptability rule. Speed is “the ultimate weapon” according to DocuSign chairman Keith Krach. Organizations that are the fastest at innovating, producing, and releasing into the marketplace are those that can overtake their obsolete competitors.

Now, as mentioned, there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” corporate culture.

However, it’s pretty clear that we live in an economy driven by technology, innovation, and speed.

And it should also be pretty clear which cultural attributes will positively influence cultural change.

Redesigning Your Corporate Culture for Continuous Change

Given the context illustrated above, change managers would be well-advised to inculcate attributes such as:

  • Innovation – Creating a culture of innovation means inviting participation from everyone. And it means using the right systems, mechanisms, and tools to boost innovation.
  • Agility – Agile software development has given rise to agile change management, agile management, and other agile disciplines. Inculcate these systems into your work environment and the culture will gradually shift to reflect those changes.
  • Openness to Change – Prudence is wise in some circumstances. But risk averse attitudes can easily prevent you from money-making investments – the kind that can help your company stay competitive and successful.
  • Speed – Acclimate employees to speed, so they become more alert and ready for spur-of-the-moment changes. A culture ready to act, react, and deliver will help contribute to an organization that is able to deliver products and services more quickly.
  • Digital Literacy – Digital literacy is a must in today’s world. Companies should create a “digital culture” that encourages digital fluency. And, as with the other characteristics mentioned here, the best way to cultivate this attribute is by introducing systems that cultivate it.
  • Lifelong Learning – It is becoming widely recognized that lifelong learning will become a prerequisite for the workforce of the future. Enterprises that integrate employee training solutions into their business will create a workforce that is more productive, relevant, engaged, and open to change.

It is worth noting that these characteristics don’t necessarily conflict with other attributes of corporate culture.

A company can still be social, relaxed, extra-competitive, and so forth.

However, in today’s economy, change is continual. 

The attributes covered above will contribute to corporate cultures that support, enable, and fuel that change.

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7 biggest challenges SMEs face – and how to overcome them

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Simon Willmett outlines the seven main challenges facing every small business, and offers ways to overcome them.

Setting up a business is certainly not without its challenges and requires vast amounts of determination, patience and effort. With figures showing that SMEs account for 99.9pc of the 5.7 million businesses in the UK, standing out from the competition has never been more important. If companies don’t make the effort to distinguish themselves from their up and coming counterparts, they risk lagging behind.

According to research by Statista, 79pc of UK SMEs stated that their toughest challenge was attracting new customers. This is a problem that so many businesses struggle with, and this includes the big players too. However, larger companies with historic success behind them usually find it easier to attract new customers as they have a strong brand supporting them.

Smart branding is hugely important and with it comes greater recognition, increased business value and the ability to generate new customers at a faster pace. Attracting new customers while maintaining a high-quality service with existing customers can be tricky, but it’s vital in order to succeed in a competitive market.

Pro-activity is also crucial for any small business. This means making phone calls, attending relevant networking events and mastering the various marketing channels that your business has a presence on.

No matter what industry a business operates in, maintaining profitability is a challenge which every business has had to consider at some point. However, there are a number of things that can help:

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase turnover
  • Increase productivity and efficiency
  • Businesses should be looking at their suppliers, premises, production processes and finance facilities as the ones that were a good fit a year or two ago may no longer be the best solution.

Introducing initiatives such as remote working may enable a business to downsize and save overhead costs, at the same time as boosting employee efficiency.

Appreciation goes a long way. A failure to demonstrate the worth of employees and the work they do could lead to a business losing some of its most valuable assets. In fact, recent research found that half of employees would leave a position if they didn’t feel appreciated.

It’s also important to remember that salary is a big factor in employees feeling valued. As a business and its profits grow, so should the salary of its employees. These are the people who are driving the business forward and its success or failure relies heavily on how they perform. While paying employees more may cost a business in the short-term, the impact of rewarding them will help a business make more money in the long run.

Although business lending is now far more accessible than in previous years, accessing finance is still a concern. Many SMEs are turned away by their high street bank, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t the only option. Alternative lenders are there to help and come without the typical “tick box” mentality, meaning they can provide flexible and customised funding solutions. Whether a business is looking for a short-term business loan or more flexible credit with a longer term, there’s a broad range of funding options available.

It’s common knowledge that every business struggles to drive, maintain and sustain growth. Last year alone, nearly six in 10 (59pc) SMEs found increasing revenue problematic.

While it’s impossible for businesses to control all the market forces they’re up against, there are a number of things to do that can help increase revenue. For example, if a business is operating within a market that is too small to generate the desired profit, offering additional products or services to increase people’s interest in the business might be something to consider.

Businesses might also want to consider adjusting their pricing strategy, especially if they are facing fierce market competition. Price is often the most important factor in any purchase for consumers and it is a difficult balance to strike. While dropping prices too much can harm a brand, raising them by a noticeable amount could also cause a negative reaction and encourage customers to look at competitors instead. The best approach to changing your prices is by doing it gradually as slight price adjustments are predominantly overlooked by consumers.

While most businesses have welcomed technological advancements of the past few decades, there are others who have buried their heads in the sand. Technology plays a key role in business and there are now software and apps available to make things easier and simpler for business owners and to alleviate some of the challenges they may regularly face. Some of these include accounting software packages, marketing tools to help distribute monthly newsletters and project management tools.

A mistake many businesses make is thinking that they have an online presence just because they have a website. There is so much more to be done beyond this and while a website was an essential a decade ago for any business serious about being successful, social media has proven to be a powerful tool in helping to maximise brand exposure.

Having an online presence means that businesses can engage with a far larger audience, which could increase profits if they’re able to capture the attention of the demographic they want to buy their products and services. Brand awareness should be a priority for all businesses and the best way to achieve this is by being present, informative and consistent.

All self-starters and entrepreneurs will undoubtedly agree that starting a business is hard and while the SME landscape is clearly a competitive one, with all this in mind, businesses should rest assured that there is help at hand.

Full article with thanks to

7 biggest challenges SMEs face – and how to overcome them
How COVID-19 Is Accelerating Digital Transformation in the Workplace

How COVID-19 Is Accelerating Digital Transformation in the Workplace

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The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the business world and companies have no choice but to review their strategies to overcome the crisis. 

he COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting the business world and companies have no choice but to review their strategies to overcome the crisis. 

The global COVID-19 lockdown has unprecedented impacts on our personal and professional lives. This chaotic situation is forcing companies across the globe to rethink their business strategies.

Most business leaders have decided to launch digital transformation initiatives to keep businesses running as smoothly as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak and to better prepare for the recovery phase.

However, driving change during these chaotic and unprecedented times is challenging for both business leaders and employees. 

A Wake-Up Call for Business Leaders to Embrace Digital Transformation 

You’ve probably seen the discussions going on on social media around the effect of the current pandemic on digital transformation.

One of the most popular circling around these days is this one:

Who led the digital transformation of your company?

This is not a joke but the new reality of digital transformation. This current situation is significantly influencing the way companies run their business and manage their people. Business continuity today seems impossible without the right technology in place. 

Even before this pandemic, 70% of companies had a digital transformation in place or were working on one. But COVID-19 is forcing companies to speed up and implement new digital transformation initiatives.

In such a rapidly evolving situation, it’s almost impossible to balance what’s best for your company, protect your employees, and still deliver a great experience to customers without the right strategy and tools.

Additionally, employers need to understand that it’s unlikely that things will get back to normal after the pandemic. Instead, we’re seeing the forced acceleration of previously slow-moving DX trends that are likely to shape the future.

Let’s now take a look into the reasons why companies are accelerating their digital transformation efforts during COVID-19. 

5 Reasons Why Businesses Are Accelerating their Digital Transformation Efforts Now

The benefits of having the right digital tools in place during a crisis such as COVID-19 are obvious and significant.

As the way we do business has drastically changed in the last few months, only the companies that adapt to these changes can succeed

Indeed, by embracing digital transformation, businesses can maintain their ability to ensure essential functions during and after the pandemic and here’s how:

1. Enhancing employee collaboration during the COVID-19 outbreak

Remote work has come, and it’s here to stay. Experts and business leaders agree that companies across the globe will keep supporting remote work even after this crisis is done.

This situation where employees are physically separated has completely changed the way our employees collaborate and work together

The key business impact trigger will be a result of the quarantines, travel restrictions, school closures and sick family members. However, many organizations have already realized that technology can help organizations better adapt to the current changing situation.

As companies are launching initiatives to enhance cross-functional collaboration during the outbreak, employees are no longer expected to work cut off from one another.

Indeed, remote teams are required to be more connected, to improve their communications, and to better align their strategies. Great collaboration results in improved efficiency and increased productivity, but only if you have the right tools in the first place.

This is why we are now witnessing many digital transformation projects and the implementation of new technologies as solutions to enable better team collaboration during the outbreak.

2. Ensuring the right flow of information

In times of crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, your internal communication should be clear, transparent, and easy to understand. What’s more, it is extremely important to be able to reach the right employees at the right time with the right message. 

This is the time when employers, leaders and internal communicators should drastically improve their communication efforts

However, some companies have a complex internal communication ecosystem, and it often makes employees feel overwhelmed with too much or irrelevant information, confused and, often times, this results in important information being ignored by employees

In these difficult times, it is extremely important to improve communication and collaboration across the organization. Businesses can’t afford to have employees missing out on important information such as urgent company updates or the latest changes made to projects they’re working on.

That’s why improving their internal communication is the most important digital transformation project for most of them.

With the implementation of the right employee communication technology, leaders and IC professionals are able to ensure the right flow of information in the workplace. They are able to better filter their audiences, personalize messages, send push notifications to employees’ mobile phones, and ensure that all the information is available and findable in a matter of seconds. 

3. Maintaining employee productivity during the crisis

Most companies have made arrangements to accommodate remote working  already at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Indeed, their priority was to protect their employees and help reduce the spread of the virus. 

Businesses are now looking for solutions to maintain employees’ productivity while working from home during the pandemic.

Many employers have realized the benefits of implementing new solutions that enable employees to stay productive and to successfully do their jobs and the ones that haven’t digitalized their internal processes earlier are now actively rethinking their strategies. They are in search for marketing, sales, development, internal communications, human resources and other tech solutions to ensure continuous business performance even during these unexpected circumstances. 

These digital technologies can help improve efficiency and productivity, and make organizations more resilient to operational disruptions.

Organizations that resist embracing digital products or channels risk being disrupted during and after the crisis.

4. Enabling leaders for success

During these times, it is crucial that business leaders and managers demonstrate good leadership skills in order to increase business resilience and prepare for rebound and future growth. 

However, many leaders are facing challenges that they have never experienced before. This is why digital transformation and technology departments are now working closely with leaders to help them streamline and continue effective workplace management

Here is what we can learn from a research by Perceptyx:

1. “Feeling supported by managers in making decisions about health and well-being” is a top differentiator for employees. Those who feel supported by their managers also feel that leadership is effectively leading their organization through the pandemic.

2. The difference is dramatic — in their data, 42% of employees strongly agree that leadership is effectively leading their organization through the crisis. But among employees who feel supported by their manager in making decisions about health and well-being, almost twice as many — 71% — believe that senior leadership is effectively leading.

The same research shows that communication shapes employee perceptions about the priority the organizations place on their safety.

Moreover, when employees are extremely satisfied with communications about the company’s response to coronavirus, 96% of them believe that their employer really puts their safety first. When communication is poor, only 30% of them believe so. 

It goes without saying that managers and leaders should have open discussions with employees regarding their concerns and anxieties, and express support for employees’ choices.

5. Planning for business continuity

Business leaders have to plan for post-pandemic recovery already now. They need to implement the right strategy and tools now to limit damages on their business. 

“The value of digital channels, products and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now,” says Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. 

“This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term”, adds Sandy Shen.

As highlighted by Gartner in one of their latest research reports, Chief Information Officers play an important role in ensuring business continuity by planning and implementing the right digital transformation initiatives.

When traditional channels and operations are impacted by the outbreak, the value of digital channels, products and operations become immediately obvious and CIOs can present a more convincing business case”, say Sandy Shen, Owen Chen, Julian Sun, Lily Mok, Arnold Gao and Deacon D.K Wan Gartner Analysts.

Digital Transformation Is a Complex Process

A lot of research shows that the percentage of successfully implemented digital transformation and change management efforts is pretty low. 

But why? The thing is, digital transformation is a complex process.

DX includes several steps — from planning to preparation, implementation, training, and evaluation of the success of the strategy — and it involves several teams that need to align and coordinate their efforts. 

Read on: Change Management: Definition, Best Practices & Examples

In some companies, change is driven by the IT leadership team while in other businesses, it’s the IT, IC, HR, finance, operations, and change management teams that are in charge. 

No matter how many teams and functions are involved in the process, driving change — whether it’s the implementation of a new software or new ways of working —  is going to take you time.

According to Ashley Friedlein, founder of Econsultancy: 

“Digital transformation does not happen quickly. Some companies seem to expect it to happen over the course of a year. In my experience, particularly for larger organisations, closer to five years is more realistic. Even then, the task is never over”.

A survey by PMI highlights the main reasons why digital transformation projects fail and those include: 

  • Poor project management skills 
  • Poor communication in the workplace 
  •  A lack of clear objectives
  • Unfamiliar scope
  • Inability to cope with new technology, mainly due to a lack of preparation and training. 

It goes without saying that employers need to better understand how to communicate with their employees during the processes, how to close the skill gaps and how to better manage change in the workplace

Even though there is no secret recipe that fits all, there are some best practices without which DX projects are unlikely to be successfully implemented. 

DX During COVID-19: Case Study

It is essential that enterprise companies create the necessary operational resilience to survive this new reality. The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the value of IT and digital transformation and organisations should use this time to accelerate the transition.

TechRadar recently presented the results of a research done by IDC about the impact of the pandemic on digital transformation.

They’ve conducted a survey in China about the opinions of 32 CXOs in 10 industries regarding the value of IT and digital transformation in the fight against the outbreak, the impact of the new coronavirus on corporate business and new digital transformation measures after the pandemic. 

They had some interesting findings. The top three negative impacts of COVID-19 in enterprises were highlighted as a significant decline in sales performance, inability to resume production and an inability to visit customers. 

However, the top three positive impacts cited were:

  • Improved corporate ability of long-distance collaborative work,
  • Gaining ability of online business development and lastly,
  • Wide recognition of the value of digital transformation and information technology among all employees. 

How to Communicate Change During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The pandemic is drastically changing the business world.

Companies have made remote work the new norm, they are rethinking their organizational structures, the unemployment rates are increasing at a skyrocketing rate due to the unprecedented wave of layoffs, and employees need to maintain their productivity levels while they’re coping with completely new ways of working.

Read on: The Ultimate COVID-19 Crisis Management Checklist for Employers

In these chaotic times, companies have no choice but to change the way they’re operating and they have to do it right now because let’s be honest — only businesses that are agile enough to adjust to the current situation will survive the crisis. 

When done right, a digital transformation strategy usually includes the following 7 steps as explained by Eastern Peak

  1. Assess the current state of digital across your organization
  2. Define your goals 
  3. Outline your digital transformation roadmap
  4. Choose the necessary tools and technologies
  5. Establish clear leadership
  6. Set a clear and realistic budget for your DX strategy
  7. Empower, educate and train your staff. 

We would even add one more step to the list above: step 8. Assess your digital transformation strategy and adjust it if needed.

The thing is, companies have to shorten or even skip some steps that are usually required when it comes to digital transformation.

This is why implementing change during COVID-19 is extremely challenging. Steps are skipped, and employees have to adapt to new ways of working and new technologies in no time. 

Alignment across the organization plays a critical role here. Making sure that everyone is on board and understand the changes you’re implementing, why these changes are implemented very fast, why they are needed, how they’re going to impact employees’ work and how they’re going to help the business overcome the crisis is extremely important.

So, how do you get there? 

The key here is your internal communication.

Proper employee communication is absolutely necessary to align your entire workplace, help employees understand the benefits behind digital transformation for both them personally and for the business overall, and drive successful digital transformation in your organization. 

Broadly speaking, you need to: 

  • Establish a pandemic communications program.
  • Have pre-approved message templates and scripts to ensure unified and aligned communication. 
  • Segment your audiences in order to deliver relevant and personalized messages. You should be able to target employees by their location, position, job function and other. 
  • Assign a spokesperson appropriate for the situation.
  • Communicate regularly, clearly and openly. 
  • Establish an internal pandemic channel with all the important resources in one place. 
  • Leverage emergency mass notification services.
  • Make it a two-way communication to enable your employees to speak up and to show them that you are listening to their concerns and questions.
  • Measure the impact of your internal communication efforts. 

Final Thoughts

In these times of crisis, companies have no choice but to review their short-term and long-term strategies. Remote work has become the new norm, and both team managers and employees have to cope with new ways of working.

During less tumultuous times, driving change takes time and effort. Remember, the implementation of a digital transformation strategy can take up to five years as explained earlier!

The key here is to communicate openly with your entire workforce. It’s the only way to ensure that 1. everyone is on board with the new strategy you’re implementing and 2. each employees knows how they can help the business survive the COVID-19 crisis.  

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PEST (PESTLE/STEEPLE) Market Analysis Tool

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PEST market analysis tool

PEST analysis method and examples, with free PEST template

The PEST analysis is a useful tool for understanding market growth or decline, and as such the position, potential and direction for a business. A PEST analysis is a business measurement tool. PEST is an acronym for Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors, which are used to assess the market for a business or organizational unit. The PEST analysis headings are a framework for reviewing a situation, and can also, like SWOT analysis , and Porter’s Five Forces model , be used to review a strategy or position, direction of a company, a marketing proposition, or idea. Completing a PEST analysis is very simple, and is a good subject for workshop sessions . PEST analysis also works well in brainstorming meetings. Use PEST analysis for business and strategic planning, marketing planning, business and product development and research reports. You can also use PEST analysis exercises for team building games . PEST analysis is similar to SWOT analysis – it’s simple, quick, and uses four key perspectives. As PEST factors are essentially external, completing a PEST analysis is helpful prior to completing a SWOT analysis (a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – is based broadly on half internal and half external factors).

PEST analysis template tool

PEST analysis template – doc format (thanks N Silva)

PEST analysis template – pdf format

PEST variations

The PEST model, like most very good simple concepts, has prompted several variations on the theme. For example, the PEST acronym is sometimes shown as STEP, which obviously represents the same factors. Stick with PEST – nearly everyone else does.

More confusingly (and some would say unnecessarily) PEST is also extended to seven or even more factors, by adding Ecological (or Environmental), Legislative (or Legal), and Industry Analysis, which produces the PESTELI model. Other variations on the theme include STEEP and PESTLE, which allow for a dedicated Ethical section. STEEPLED is another interpretation which includes pretty well everything except the kitchen sink: Political, Economic, Social and Technological – plus Ecological or Environmental, Ethical, Demographic and Legal.

It’s a matter of personal choice, but for most situations the original PEST analysis model arguably covers all of the ‘additional’ factors within the original four main sections. For example Ecological or Environmental factors can be positioned under any or all of the four main PEST headings, depending on their effect. Legislative factors would normally be covered under the Political heading since they will generally be politically motivated. Demographics usually are an aspect of the larger Social issue. Industry Analysis is effectively covered under the Economic heading. Ethical considerations would typically be included in the Social and/or Political areas, depending on the perspective and the effect. Thus we can often see these ‘additional’ factors as ‘sub-items’ or perspectives within the four main sections.

Keeping to four fundamental perspectives also imposes a discipline of considering strategic context and effect. Many potential ‘additional’ factors (ethical, legislative, environmental for example) will commonly be contributory causes which act on one or some of the main four headings, rather than be big strategic factors in their own right.

The shape and simplicity of a four-part model is also somehow more strategically appealing and easier to manipulate and convey.

Ultimately you must use what version works best for you, and importantly for others who need to understand you, which is another good reason perhaps for sticking with PEST, because everyone knows it, and you’ll not need to spend half the presentation explaining the meaning of STEEPLED or some other quirky interpretation.

If you have come across any other weird and wonderful extended interpretations of PEST I’d love to see them.

On which point (thanks D Taylor) I am informed of one such variation, which featured in some 2010 coursework: PEST LIED. The PEST element represents the usual factors – Political, Economic, Social and Technological. The LIED add-on stands for Legal, International, Environment and Demography. Suggestions of origin gratefully received, and any other variations of the PEST model.


PEST analysis most commonly measures a market ; a SWOT analysis measures a business unit, a proposition or idea .

Generally speaking a SWOT analysis measures a business unit or proposition, whereas a PEST analysis measures the market potential and situation, particularly indicating growth or decline, and thereby market attractiveness, business potential, and suitability of access – market potential and ‘fit’ in other words. PEST analysis uses four perspectives, which give a logical structure, in this case organized by the PEST format, that helps understanding, presentation, discussion and decision-making. The four dimensions are an extension of a basic two heading list of pro’s and con’s ( free pro’s and con’s template here ).

PEST analysis can be used for marketing and business development assessment and decision-making, and the PEST template encourages proactive thinking, rather than relying on habitual or instinctive reactions.

Here the PEST analysis template is presented as a grid, comprising four sections, one for each of the PEST headings: Political, Economic, Social and Technological.

As previously explained, extended variations of PEST (eg., PESTELI and STEEP, etc) include other factors, such as Environmental, Ethical, Legal or Legislative, etc., however in most situations you will find that these ‘additional’ factors are actually contributory causes or detailed perspectives which then manifest or take effect in the form or one or several of the original four main PEST factors. For example, Ethical and Environmental factors will always tend to produce an effect in at least one of the main four headings (Political, Economic, Social, Technological), but it will tend not to work the other way. Hence why the basic PEST model is often the most powerful – it puts more pressure on strategic appreciation and analysis than a longer list of headings. When you next see a PESTELI or a STEEPLED analysis ask yourself (or the author): “Okay, I understand that customers tend to be more ethically minded now, but what does that mean in terms of the basic four PEST factors – what’s the effect going to be?…” or: “Okay we know that carbon emissions is an issue, but tell me where in the main four PEST factors will it impact..?

You will gather I am not a fan nor a particular advocate of extending the PEST model. It works great as it is – why make it more complicated and less specific? If you are worried about missing or forgetting a crucial point of ethics or legislation (or anything else) keep a reference list of these headings, and only build them into the model if you are sure that doing so will make it work better as a strategic tool.

The free PEST template below includes sample questions or prompts, whose answers are can be inserted into the relevant section of the PEST grid. The questions are examples of discussion points, and obviously can be altered depending on the subject of the PEST analysis, and how you want to use it. Make up your own PEST questions and prompts to suit the issue being analysed and the situation (ie., the people doing the work and the expectations of them). Like SWOT analysis, it is important to clearly identify the subject of a PEST analysis, because a PEST analysis is four-way perspective in relation to a particular business unit or proposition – if you blur the focus you will produce a blurred picture – so be clear about the market that you use PEST to analyse.

A market is defined by what is addressing it, be it a product, company, brand, business unit, proposition, idea, etc, so be clear about how you define the market being analysed, particularly if you use PEST analysis in workshops, team exercises or as a delegated task. The PEST subject should be a clear definition of the market being addressed, which might be from any of the following standpoints:

  • a company looking at its market
  • a product looking at its market
  • a brand in relation to its market
  • a local business unit
  • a strategic option, such as entering a new market or launching a new product
  • a potential acquisition
  • a potential partnership
  • an investment opportunity

Be sure to describe the subject for the PEST analysis clearly so that people contributing to the analysis, and those seeing the finished PEST analysis, properly understand the purpose of the PEST assessment and implications.

PEST analysis template

Other than the four main headings, the questions and issues in the template below are examples and not exhaustive – add your own and amend these prompts to suit your situation, the experience and skill level of whoever is completing the analysis, and what you aim to produce from the analysis.

Ensure you consider the additional PESTELI/STEEPLED headings, and any others you feel are relevant, but avoid building these into the final analysis model unless you gain some strategic planning or presentation benefit from doing so.

If helpful refer to a list of these other ‘headings’, for example: Ecological/ Environmental, Legislative/or Legal, Demographic, Ethical, Industry Analysis. Apply some strategic consideration and pressure to the points you list under these ‘additional’ headings. Ask yourself what the effects of each will be on the ‘big four’ (Political, Economic, Social, Technological). Often your answers will persuade you that the original four-part PEST model is best and that using a more complex series of headings makes it more difficult to complete the analysis fully and strategically.

The analysis can be converted into a more scientific measurement by scoring the items in each of the sections. There is are established good or bad reference points – these are for you to decide. Scoring is particularly beneficial if more than one market is being analysed, for the purpose of comparing which market or opportunity holds most potential and/or obstacles. This is useful when considering business development and investment options, ie, whether to develop market A or B; whether to concentrate on local distribution or export; whether to acquire company X or company Y, etc. If helpful when comparing more than one different market analysis, scoring can also be weighted according to the more or less significant factors.

(insert subject for PEST analysis – market, business, proposition, etc.)

politicalecological/environmental issuescurrent legislation home marketfuture legislationinternational legislationregulatory bodies and processesgovernment policiesgovernment term and changetrading policiesfunding, grants and initiativeshome market lobbying/pressure groupsinternational pressure groupswars and conflictseconomichome economy situationhome economy trendsoverseas economies and trendsgeneral taxation issuestaxation specific to product/servicesseasonality/weather issuesmarket and trade cyclesspecific industry factorsmarket routes and distribution trendscustomer/end-user driversinterest and exchange ratesinternational trade/monetary issues
sociallifestyle trendsdemographicsconsumer attitudes and opinionsmedia viewslaw changes affecting social factorsbrand, company, technology imageconsumer buying patternsfashion and role modelsmajor events and influencesbuying access and trendsethnic/religious factorsadvertising and publicityethical issuestechnologicalcompeting technology developmentresearch fundingassociated/dependent technologiesreplacement technology/solutionsmaturity of technologymanufacturing maturity and capacityinformation and communicationsconsumer buying mechanisms/technologytechnology legislationinnovation potentialtechnology access, licencing, patentsintellectual property issuesglobal communications

More on the difference and relationship between PEST and SWOT

PEST is useful before SWOT – not generally vice-versa – PEST definitely helps to identify SWOT factors. There is overlap between PEST and SWOT, in that similar factors would appear in each. That said, PEST and SWOT are certainly two different perspectives:

PEST assesses a market, including competitors, from the standpoint of a particular proposition or a business.

SWOT is an assessment of a business or a proposition, whether your own or a competitor’s.

Strategic planning is not a precise science – no tool is mandatory – it’s a matter of pragmatic choice as to what helps best to identify and explain the issues.

PEST becomes more useful and relevant the larger and more complex the business or proposition, but even for a very small local businesses a PEST analysis can still throw up one or two very significant issues that might otherwise be missed.

The four quadrants in PEST vary in significance depending on the type of business, eg., social factors are more obviously relevant to consumer businesses or a B2B business close to the consumer-end of the supply chain, whereas political factors are more obviously relevant to a global munitions supplier or aerosol propellant manufacturer.

All businesses benefit from a SWOT analysis, and all businesses benefit from completing a SWOT analysis of their main competitors, which interestingly can then provide some feed back into the economic aspects of the PEST analysis.

Full article with thanks to

PEST (PESTLE/STEEPLE) Market Analysis Tool