Navigating Managerial and Policy Changes

When it comes to innovation, one thing is inevitable, change. Change, because as you make steps to create new solutions for relevant problems, you will need to make new changes, create new policies, form new teams and so on.

In the last article, we explored what innovation governance looks like and concluded that governance is a crucial enabler of innovation. This means that if governance is brought into play, there is a need to examine how to navigate the changes that will be made, especially the managerial and policy changes.

Change is inevitable, however, what is evitable is what is done with the change. We’ve seen a lot of leaders do a bad job in planning for, explaining and implementing change. In fact, a study by Willis Towers Watson found that only 25% of gains produced by change management initiatives (in 276 large and midsize companies in North America, Europe and Asia) are successfully sustained on a long-term basis.

At this point, we must ask what these companies are doing wrong and how they can communicate better, implement, and sustain effective change?

Common Mistakes

Change typically involves a lot of moving parts, compressed deadlines and uncertainty. Just one of these factors could lead to missteps, but when you combine all three, the potential for mistakes multiplies.

Implementing change for the wrong reasons or at the wrong time can also cause pitfalls.

“All too often, a leader of an organization or business unit will get inspired by a new idea — often from attending an industry conference or from the emergence of a new competitor — and decide that the organization needs to move in a different direction,” says Lisa Kay Solomon, an expert on business leadership and culture design, and the co-author of “Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation.”

While it’s tempting to imitate other companies, leaders need to take a step back and decide which changes are right for their organization, asking questions such as:

  • Why is this change necessary?
  • How might it improve the company, if at all?

Communicating the changes is another area in which leaders often make mistakes. Amy Radin, author of “The Change Maker’s Playbook,” has a long history of managing change as a Fortune 100 Chief Innovation Officer. Radin identifies three common mistakes that companies make when introducing and implementing change.

The first one is the inability to provide sufficient or relevant context to help employees and customers understand why change is necessary, and why now. It’s not enough to just send notifications that change is coming. People value context. They need to know what is behind what they are being asked to support, and how it is expected to affect not just the bottom line, but customers, the community and, most important, themselves.

Another mistake many business leaders make is focusing on the company’s needs rather than the needs of the product, employees, or customers. Sometimes, the leaders are all about “us and them,” rather than understanding what employees need to hear and understand to get comfortable.

The last one is failing to be clear, authentic, and transparent. Change is risky and some elements are unpredictable, but employees deserve the truth rather than some sugar-coated fact.

Illustration 1: Common Managerial Mistakes

Common Challenges of Managing Change

When it comes to implementing change, constructing policies, and managing the organization for innovation, certain challenges could come to play. In fact, the first challenge is having to soften the friction that could occur because of the usual mindset “why change it if it’s working already.” Some other challenges that could occur are:

Managing multiple teams

One of the first few challenges is having to account for several people at the same time…because you are trying to gain the result you desire, you may need to split the team members into groups, which may become a problem at the end of the day. However, if you choose the right innovation governance model, this may solve the problem.

Illustration 1b: Innovation Governance Models

Being in a hurry to gain appropriate approvals

There’s nothing worse than finishing something and waiting for approval so you can wrap up your project. This applies to implementing changes. Your organization may require an approval from the process owner and by QA. The right automated system will automatically route your tasks for the appropriate approvals, with rules and actions for overdue tasks and escalations. This helps keep everyone on track.

Lacking visibility into your change processes

Just as dashboards and email alerts help with keeping your processes harmonized and consistent, they can also help solve the dilemma of losing sight of where you are. A well-planned change can take time to roll out throughout an organization, particularly in global environments. That’s why you need a centralized system for viewing open tasks, and which phase your change is in.

Juggling between multiple simultaneously changing scenarios

What do you do when a complaint comes in and leads you to identify an issue with your supplier? The changes start to feel like a domino effect: a corrective action preventive action (CAPA) is created, requiring an update to your specifications; now you might need to change your incoming materials and the inspection of those materials, designs need to be updated, and supplier oversight needs to be increased; your packaging and labeling need to be adjusted; who knows how many changes will result and how long it will take to make the adjustments? The way to overcome the challenge of managing multiple, varying changes is through harmonized processes.

Reasons for These Challenges

As a manager or business leader, one of the things you know is that the more planning you try to do to implement drastic change, the more willing employees will be to accept change. It also means that change in processes and systems will be quicker.

The most common reasons some changes can be resisted are:

  • Uncertainty about their future or the future of the organization
  • A natural reaction against change; status-quo mentality
  • Change threatens security
  • New people, processes and systems are not trusted
  • They don’t understand the reason for the change

Change is hard; it’s more than just a proclamation of a new idea, or a stated urgency to do something different.

Change starts with clear intent, deeply rooted in a clear point of view regarding the necessity of changing. Leaders need to build alignment and understanding across the organization, on both the senior level of management and throughout all parts of the organization, so that everyone understands not only what the change is but, equally important, why the change needs to happen.

Keys to Communicating and Implementing Change More Effectively

Illustration 2: Keys to Implementing Change Effectively.

When it comes to implementing and successfully navigating through managerial changes, sometimes making changes in small increments is a good strategy.

Managerial and policy changes should never be without soliciting and incorporating employee feedback.

Another thing is to make sure you are consistent in your words and actions so that you can manage change effectively.

In addition, the following suggestions can help:

  1. Change is overwhelming, so keep it simple. Don’t make it more complex unless this also produces an upside for employees. It is better to iterate towards the change in small, manageable steps and cycles, versus telling employees all at once everything you expect to have happened and want them to do.
  2. Set the right cultural conditions. Employees are more likely to accept change when the cultural conditions support their success through the change. Assess to what extent your culture is one where execution is dependable, there is clarity of role and goals, people believe they are having an impact, find meaning in their work and feel safe taking risks.
  3. Examine and re-examine your procedures and policies. Since it’s hard to do new things with old processes, you may need to look at the effectiveness of your existing policies and procedures.
  4. Listen to employees. Ask questions and let employees discuss their concerns and advice. To the extent leaders listen, they gain or lose credibility and affect others’ will to listen to them. A good, basic listening tactic is to hold roundtable sessions that break out of the daily structure of work — gathering around food opens communication and lowers rank and role barriers.
  5. Embrace different styles and be patient. Your employees have different learning styles and different communication styles, so you’ll need to employ a variety of formats to reach everyone. Even your highest performers under ‘normal’ circumstances may appreciate more direction and handholding when change happens.

If you’ve been with us since day one of this learning series, you already know that we are on a journey to help simplify what innovation is and what it means to organizations and individuals. In the next article, we would be exploring joint ventures and partnerships.

If you would like to talk about navigating managerial and policy changes in your organization, send us a message at It’s talk like this that gives us a buzz 😁




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