Navigating the hard route to change

Successful change management requires an awareness of built-in resistance, as awareness becomes the spark that ignites the fuel of innovation.
Pravesh Parbhoo
By Pravesh Parbhoo, Head of sales and solutions, Altron Karabina.
Johannesburg, 05 Sept 2023
Pravesh Parbhoo, head of sales and solutions at Altron Karabina.
Pravesh Parbhoo, head of sales and solutions at Altron Karabina.

The very nature of digital transformation is grounded in change. It is simply not possible to get from one point to another without navigating change.

The same can be said about change within an organisation, where the opportunity to evolve into an entity that’s more competitive and relevant is only possible through embracing change.

The world is not short of words and opinions about change management, a discipline that is as important today as it has ever been. However, perhaps the most important aspect of change is a willingness to accept being vulnerable and a commitment to sticking to the course, which will be characterised by fear and resistance.

It’s human nature to gravitate towards a state of calm, balance and flow. Think about it: not many people actively wake up every day seeking out disruption and fear. It’s almost as if we instinctively resist situations that make us uncomfortable.

Of course, the great irony here is that change for the better is simply impossible without facing discomfort. There is no shortcut to an end state or dream state or target operating model. We cannot teleport ourselves from an “as is” state to the desired “to be” state. The only way to reach that destination is to traverse the rocky terrain.

With this in mind, we simply must appreciate that the process of change will always encompass resistance and negativity before transitioning towards a state of enthusiasm.

It’s human nature to gravitate towards a state of calm, balance and flow.

It would not be outlandish to claim that many failed projects are the result of businesses or leaders underestimating the inevitable resistance they’d face. This is not a fatalistic view, rather it is supremely positive because it appreciates that it is the resistance itself that is the fuel of innovation.

By driving a culture that encourages vulnerability, change agents can build a constant awareness within an organisation of built-in resistance. Awareness becomes the spark that ignites the fuel of innovation.

How does this look in the real world? Either, a consultant or employee will walk into a room believing they know all the answers immediately, or they will have the confidence to admit they don’t yet know the answers, but have faith that their people and processes will support them to reach the desired destination.

If I turn the lens inwards, it would be foolish for us to succumb to the pressure of needing to be instant experts who know all the answers immediately.

Similarly, in my new role heading up the large sales engine of the organisation − itself a significant change − I would be foolish to expect myself to know the route to our desired destination immediately.

This awareness allows my team and I to trust the GPS of our systems and processes, and to navigate accordingly. Similarly, this awareness means that if we encounter something akin to a road hazard or bottleneck, we need to be agile enough to find another route.

Indeed, there will be times when the path has not yet been charted, and in those times, we must build the new route on the go − yet never lose sight of the GPS pointing us toward where we need to be.

Altron, as an organisation, is busy embarking on an exciting shift, where formerly disparate businesses are aligning far more closely. This, too, is a process change, where our internal awareness of resistance, driven strongly by change agents within the organisation, is producing the sparks of innovation.

Already, as we are in transition, fear of the unknown has been replaced by enthusiasm for what is to be. Leaders who appreciate that those who don’t embrace change, risk losing relevance in their industries and markets, would do well to approach change with this mindset.

Rather than deny or attempt to escape resistance, leaders can use an awareness of it to propel the organisation forward. Embracing change provides leaders with an opportunity to build a bridge over a river of resistance.

Sometimes the tides will be strong. The foundations and pillars of the bridge are built through leadership and the value a business drives for its customers. It goes without saying that these pillars must be strong enough to weather the river's flow.

However, once they are solidly in place, reaching the destination on the other side becomes not only possible but a pleasant and fruitful experience.