Why is Change Management Vital to Commercial Excellence?

by EMM Group

Team Capability Building

Screen_Shot_2016-01-25_at_3.14.02_PM.pngChange management is one of the most important factors in nearly every strategic marketing consultation we undertake, yet it is often the least valued by the client. We know this because if there’s a budget or resource crunch after the program has begun – change management is always the part that gets de-emphasized.

From a human standpoint, this is understandable because we naturally resist change. That automatically makes change management an uncomfortable topic. It demands accountability, can be challenging to implement and manage, and it often gets downplayed as a “soft skill” issue that’s somehow less important than the more concrete aspects of the strategy.

Unfortunately, that is a self-defeating response to the challenges of change that often gives us cause for alarm.

Where a lot of companies get change management wrong

Change management as a discipline is discussed only in relation to the largest-scale changes an organization can experience: mergers and acquisitions, major reorganizations or complete brand upheavals. But, in reality, something as routine as building a new capability can bring with it the need for a level of change management.   

Every project with an element of innovation, creativity, or evolution is going to require change from someone in the organization: a change in process, a change in responsibilities and expectations, even a change in the way the company does business. Any project that actually helps companies grow and evolve –  from the largest to the smallest strategic project – will require change. 

And changes don’t occur in a vacuum. Even if the change is really only affecting one department, or even just one person, there will be a ripple effect as that individual or team begins changing their behavior. Marketing, and business for that matter, is a team sport, after all.

So, change management should be treated as a requirement, not an option. Because, frankly, trying to get a group of people to change without effectively managing that change is like trying to move a rope by pushing on one end: it’s not going to end well. The results of implementing something new will likely be undermined by inaction or resistance.

Why change management matters so much to us

We want our Clients to succeed with or without our help.  Given our focus on commercial excellence, almost everything we do is both cross functional and will usually be implemented by our Clients, not us.  The lack of change management and the buy-in and adoption that comes with it is the cause of more client failures than most would expect.

Inevitably, after initially nixing the change management piece to slim the budget slightly, then implementing a program that ends up with little if any adoption across the organization, these clients come back to us looking for help fixing what should have been a successful implementation. At that point, almost without fail, they’ll nod and smile, acknowledging that change management is the piece they needed most.

Why it may always be a problem

While most of the areas we discuss with clients are pretty concrete in nature – like improving sales and marketing integration and creating employee training programs – change management is a much softer topic. It’s not objective in many ways, so it’s uncomfortable for people who don’t fully understand it.

Often, when decision makers determine they need our help, they are already 75% down the path of change in their own minds. They know there are problems; they probably know what they are and how to fix them. The case for change is clear to them, they don’t need to be convinced to make the necessary changes, they’re even expecting others to change, but aren’t yet willing or able to model that change themselves or won’t make the time to make the case to their colleagues and teams.

As a result, the needs of the organization have not been effectively communicated to the majority of those who will need to change in order to realize success. There could be dozens or hundreds of other people who are required to change but have no idea why or how.

Why is change management so vital to commercial excellence?

Simply put, including a formal change management element in a commercial excellence program is like buying insurance for your iPhone: relatively speaking, it’s a very small investment. However, it ensures that the large investment – the entire program – works properly. So it costs little, but adds tremendous value.

The pace and constancy of change in the business environment isn’t going to drop off anytime soon. As change continues to be required at nearly every level of the organization all the time, change management will only increase in value. Which is why we want to make sure our clients are ahead of the game.

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Keywords: Team Capability Building