To remain relevant in the digitalised economy, organisations across the globe, as well as in the region, have launched a series of transformational initiatives and programmes.

While on one hand, these initiatives could be to innovate and differentiate viz. transition to cloud computing (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS); Social & Mobility solutions; Sensor & IoT; Artificial Intelligence & Robotics; Predictive Analytics & Big Data; 3D Printing, etc.

On the other hand, it could be to improve operational efficiencies and productivities viz. upgrade the back office system; shifting to a managed services outsourced model; technology refresh; application portfolio rationalisation, etc.

These transformational initiatives are bound to disrupt the contemporary environment and work culture of an organisation. Added to this, managing change in the region with a culturally diversified work force is undoubtedly a complex task.

The behaviours of the workforce can be managed, but their attitudes, values and belief are too deep rooted and would take time, to gain their mindshare.

How often have we witnessed strategic initiatives qualify through various checkpoints, management approvals, prototypes and successful pilots, only to fail midway or lose momentum once they have been implemented and gone live. There are several attributes required for a successful transformational programme. But the single attribute that is more often over looked is, managing organisational change.

In a digitised economy, organisations need to continuously innovate to stay relevant and improve operational efficiencies. While driving innovation, they are forced to change and adapt to newer business and operating models. Organisational Change Management (OCM) is no longer an optional cost line item but a mandatory ingredient for a successful transformational program.

Organisations don’t change by introducing new business models, operating models, processes, systems and structures. They change when their internal stakeholders have developed a common mind share and willingness to embrace a new ecosystem.

Organisations need to take a step back and understand the different phases of change their employee’s experience. Anticipating their reactions and being prepared for each phase of the change management life cycle, will help organisations to navigate and successfully implement change.

When a new project or program is launched, in the first phase, employees experience shock or denial as they are reacting to change. In the second phase, they express Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt (FUD) where they resist and protest change. The FUD factor revolves around their continuity, control, security, social standing and daily routine.

The anxiety is this phase is the highest as employees do not know what to expect and feel vulnerable to change. This gets accentuated during an economic downturn and global slowdown. During this phase organisations can expect maximum disruption and need to sensitively manage and navigate this crucial phase.

In the third phase, employees start thinking with a neutral mind, they seem less attached to their earlier position and are more receptive to change. They visualise what the change would be, how they would fit into these changes and what they would need to do. In the last phase, they have overcome the mind barrier of change, they accept the change and are in alignment with the organisation. They discover new ways of working and adapting to the changes.

So how do organisations lead change while driving transformation?

While organisations adopt to complex and intrinsic Organisational Change Management frameworks, methodologies and templates, they need to focus on the human side of managing change, which is an integral ingredient for success. This is more relevant in a knowledge economy fuelled by digitalisation, where speed to innovate and time to adapt are key to gaining a competitive advantage. Some of the guidelines for leading change while transforming include —

• Sharing a common vision of change and painting the big picture or end state

• Maintaining transparency to eliminate FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) factor

• Building incremental trust, consistently, to achieve the stated goals

• Maintaining a sustained two-way communication, which is both formal and informal

• Identifying change agents yet involving others stake holders to gain support

• Targeting short term wins as a stepping stone to achieve the larger goal

• Eliminating hurdles that continue to hinder change and challenge the vision

• Building teamwork, collaboration and ownership across all levels

• Effective senior management sponsorship supported by an able change management team

• Planning by stating the objectives and how they would be achieved

• Proactively managing the risks and dependencies by the early involvement of stakeholders

• Establishing robust governance supported by organisational structures, roles, and responsibilities

The only constant in life is change. As with most things in life, nothing is certain, unless organisations are willing to constantly adapt and embrace change, as a way of life.

The writer is the Executive Vice-President of Dubai-based TransSys Solutions. He can be contacted via Twitter @Stephen_Fdes