A strategy for change helps one structure the transformation and increases awareness on 'how to best manage the implementation process'.
Strategy for change
Change impacts people. A business undergoing strategic change, requires its personnel to adjust and transform themselves in accordance to the 'new' business changes. It is common for emotions to run high and conflicts to arise as everyone adjusts and accommodates. Business at the end of the day is about people. Hence, the importance of strategizing for change must never be underestimated.
Why? A strategy for change will focus on 'the process' (the 'how') whereas a business strategy includes the content (the 'what'). For example, a typical business expansion plan covers a description of the business, possible markets, target groups, feasibility, forecasts, numbers and figures, market value, technology, potential partners etc. This is part of the content (the 'what'). However, equally critical is whether the business plan covers the implementation process, cultural differences, value systems, commitment levels, communication plans, people growth, hierarchy etc. This is part of redefining the processes (the 'how'). Often the business plan omits these critical markers. But for 'change' to be successful the 'strategy for change' must be thought through equally well.
Expansion in India
Let's look at the case of a successful American company in the service sector.Six years ago, an American company decided to expand operations to India. They understood the game of developing and setting up businesses across the globe and were equipped to service the Indian industry. They hired competent Indian sales professionals who were aware of the potential of the Indian market and eager to achieve targets set by the mother company in America. Four years later having reached break-even point, headquarters initiated selling of software products in addition to services already being offered. A new business strategy was required that included sales of both services and products. The question was whether the approach that worked in America, would work in India too? Could the same business model be replicated, as is, to the Indian market? The answer was 'NO'. There were too many regional differences regarding needs, expectations, culture, and available budgets for products. Both offices had a common ambition with shared targets. However, the implementation strategy to achieve those targets had to be completely different. The 'business strategy' as well as the 'strategy for change' needed to be thought through for the Indian market. The Indian sales team developed a different approach. Their targets remained the same, however the approach, or in other words the implementation strategy differed.
There were many things to ponder over, to think through. Were the rules of the game the same across India? How to convince the Indian customer? Who were the potential clients? How to 'collaborate' with competitors? How to price the product in India, without incurring losses on similarly priced products in America? These were just a few of the external elements that they tackled while implementing the Indian strategy for change. Was the change real? Yes! Was it successful? Each year saw tremendous business growth. Along with it came internal restructuring, new growth opportunities, emerging leaders, and newer business models. From centralization to decentralization, from top-down to bottom-up, from hierarchical leaders to team leaders. To summarize the Indian company developed an internal and external strategy for change. The implementation of both strategies reduced the lead time of change, increased awareness, and enhanced skills like empathy and imagination. "We are better equipped to imagine the effect of implementing our business strategy in an Indian context than our colleagues in the United States".
How to get from here to there
A practical definition of 'strategy' is 'how to get from here to there' (Mintzberg 1994). What more does one need to 'bridge the gap', apart from what this classical definition describes? It is targets, scenario's, plans, and roadmaps that include an overview of detailed activities and responsibilities.
By using the word 'how' to define strategy, Mintzberg covered both facets of the coin, the content as well as the process.
Coming back to the American company in India, most of the elements of the Indian strategy for change were process-oriented. Increased ownership, a bottom-up approach, and Change Management training enabled the leaders and professionals to develop and implement its very own strategy for change. They understood the market in India better than their American peers. They had experience, understood client needs and could sense the approach required, well in time. Why? Because they knew the rules of the game. How it was played in India. They knew that the Indian market is unpredictable and required a 'never-give-up' mentality combined with flexibility and adaptability. They developed their 'strategy for change' on the move, as they crossed the bridge.
Change impacts people. Anticipating the impact is key. A strategy for change helps one structure the transformation and increases awareness on 'how to best manage the implementation process'.