To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Curriculum Manager Tom Boulton “looked beyond” his usual role and wrote us a guest blog!

 

The bat-eater himself, Ozzy Osbourne, once sang ‘we’re going through changes’, and boy was he right!

Change is the one of those ever-presents we can guarantee in the 21st Century, both personally and professionally.

Often, change is accelerated by the introduction of some new technology that somehow improves or, sometimes, completely alters the way in which we operate.

Just think of how we speak with one another nowadays compared to just five or ten years ago. The BT video phone seemed like a Jetson’s inspired vision of the future when I first saw it on Tomorrow’s World, yet now, we all now carry in our pockets.

Businesses go through this every day, some successfully and others not so. Dealing with this is usually down to our ability to respond to change quickly and effectively and really, it’s no different from dealing with the changes we face as individuals.

Take the example we used earlier. We’ll know people that are more than comfortable using apps like WhatsApp and FaceTime when communicating, there are those of us late to the party, just starting to figure it out, who are beginning to use this technology and then those who simply don’t understand and don’t care to.

Think of that in a business context, a new technology has arrived which has revolutionised the way in which we can communicate with our customers, potentially opening up a new audience for our business we previously struggled to communicate with. The businesses that aim to understand this new technology and incorporate into Business as Usual (BaU) will inevitably be those that see growth. Those late to the party, figuring out how it works will also see an upturn which will likely arrive later and be smaller than the industry leaders. The businesses who keep their head’s in the sand and ignore the new technology will, at best, stay where they are and at worst, shrink into irrelevance… Blockbuster not anticipating the impact the internet will have on the industry is a perfect example.

It’s not to say that simply downloading WhatsApp, ordering everyone does the same and blindly using the app barring all other options is the best approach either. Change often falls short or fails when introduced within a business, not because of the technology or change itself instead being a symptom of ineffective leadership.

The key concepts of enabling an individual or a business to cope with, incorporate and succeed with change are basically the same.

Firstly, understand what the change is and why it’s important to respond. In business, this may be done at the highest level of the organisation whereas the practical management of change, left to the leaders of departments and teams, throughout the business.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is communicating the desired outcome this change is hoping to achieve. It is essential that this is done effectively and consistently throughout the change process to avoid misunderstanding, uncertainty and contempt for the change.

Lastly, is making sure that the change has had the impact that was desired and expected. It’s key to get feedback and see whether the change has been understood and incorporated as was hoped and is achieving the benefits expected.