In a 2004 Conference Board report on CEO challenges, 88 percent of the 539 European, Asian, and North American CEOs surveyed ranked organizational flexibility and adaptability to change among their greatest leadership concerns and the number one issue for 42 percent of the executives. Carl Steffen, a vice president at PeopleSoft, which co-sponsored the study, noted that “developing an agile, adaptable workforce that embraces change and aligns itself quickly will be tomorrow’s competitive differentiator.”
The consequences for both leaders and employees of failing to respond to change can be dramatic. A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com released in 2005 found that 31 percent of CEOs get fired for mismanaging change, contrary to the commonly held belief that these leaders are terminated (or are forced to resign or retire under pressure) because of current financial performance. A 2002 survey developed by temporary staffing service Accountemps of 1,400 chief financial officers from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 20 employees indicated that more than a third said embracing change is a critical success factor for employees.
Your Response to Change
Change is without doubt disruptive and traumatic, and when it affects you, your natural inclination might be to flee that employer, resist the transformation, cope with it “ or you can capitalize on it. You can grab the opportunity that change presents to develop new self-concepts, specific skills, and mental attitudes for handling, leading, communicating, and taking advantage of organizational change. Those skills will make you more marketable when you decide to leave your employer.
After all, just as your own organization is changing, change in other organizations, along with its accompanying employee turnover, creates needs for new employees with different characteristics from those hired in the past. These new workers will be those who are flexible, trainable, technologically savvy, and more highly educated. For an illustration of how continuous change creates opportunity, see the sidebar, Communication Change Continuum in Organizations. Given that most organizations undergo change, managers will need change agents/change leaders: people for their teams who possess competencies that catalyze change. In fact, experts see the pursuit of change-savvy talent as a key management strategy. A major mission of this book is to look at how you can incorporate change and other skills into storytelling “ both stories to facilitate your advancement in your current organization and stories to help you get your foot in the door in new organizations. “Develop a positive hunger for change,” advises Pamela Kaul, President of Association Strategies, Inc. Kaul points to interviewers and search committees who want to see evidence of change and how you’ve motivated it. How have you contributed to effectiveness and faster, better, cheaper operations?