A pre-requisite to innovation is being open to change. Organizations must be change-adept if they want to thrive in and sustain an innovative culture. Change needs to be brought about in all facets of organizational culture – the internal climate, the brand, business strategy, internal and external communication, the processes and systems and the people’s knowledge and skill. It is only when organizations introduce and manage change, that innovation can thrive.
For change management to play a role in innovation, one needs to begin with the following:
- Upskill the employee’s knowledge and skill level so that they can identify problems that require innovative solutions and opportunities that help in implementing those solutions
- Change the organizational structure from hierarchical to flat; remove the “silo mentality” employees work with and focus more on collaboration
- Relook at the existing processes and systems to ensure that it supports the innovation implementation process; if not, change must be introduced in those aspects as well
- With introduction and change in the products and services (making them more innovative), the customer base, sales and marketing plan too needs to change
Here are the steps of change management in innovation:
- Define what change needs to be introduced to implement the innovation strategy and solution. This goal must be aligned to the larger business goals.
- Build a network of change agents – a group of skilled employees who can drive and implement the change at the respective levels in the organization. Innovation at the organization level must percolate down to all levels in the organization.
- Identify the innovation champions apart from the change agents. The innovation champions will reinforce the ideas and behaviors related to the innovation that must be implemented.
- Re-assess the internal climate to check if there are any elements in the existing culture and climate that can inhibit the process of change and innovation. If yes, create a plan to list what aspects of the culture needs to change and how.
- Use the change agents and innovation champions to help manage resistance to change at all levels. This would also include enabling the managers to lead change at the people level, that is, managing their emotions related to resistance to change.
- Create an impactful and influential communication plan because this one factor is key to the entire process. The communication plan must be written from the employee’s perspective – keeping their frame of reference or how they perceive and look at this initiative. This will help in the buy-in from the employees.
- Gather feedback from the employees on what is working and what is not working well. Getting their inputs in the increases the chances of them accepting the change faster.
- Build a reinforcement strategy for those who demonstrate behaviors of being aligned with the innovation introduced and the change brought about with it. This will sustain their motivation and engagement and, motivate others to come on board quickly. One can also think of some negative consequences for those who continue to behave in the same way so that, they do not become an obstacle in the journey. The underlying principles of these reinforcement strategies are that it should be meaningful to the employee group, immediate, focused, certain and continuous.
Change management plays a great role in the innovation process and journey. Without an organization being change adept and a plan to manage change, innovative solutions cannot be implemented successfully.