Many well-intentioned executives fail to appreciate the “downstream” impacts of their strategic initiatives. The employee experience is often very different from what executives envision when they set a strategy in motion.
How does this happen?
If you have been involved in any type of large-scale strategic initiative, you know how difficult it can be to accurately predict employee reactions several weeks or months into an effort. Whether it’s deploying a new IT system, restructuring a division, or improving a process, employees are confronted with a myriad of potential changes. At the start of a new initiative, these potential impacts are typically only thought about at a cursory level. Executives acknowledge that “we’ll need to manage the change impacts” but often that’s the extent of the analysis.
As weeks and months progress, the change impacts compound. Those characteristics that make us uniquely human—our emotions, self-esteem, autonomy, and pride—meld with the change impacts and complicate implementation of the business initiative. Left unchecked, natural human reactions to large-scale change can result in many unintended consequences to business performance. It plays out something like this:
Strategic objectives sought by executives:
- Productivity improvement
- More efficient processes
- Expansion into new markets
- Increased profitability
How these objectives are experienced by employees downstream:
- New skills requirements
- Altering of work processes
- Different managers
- Changes in decision authority
Unintended consequences if the experience is not managed effectively:
- Resistance to the changes
- Major productivity dips
- Slower than expected results
- Reduced commitment
While over-simplified, the above sequence of events represent an experience that is all too common in the deployment of strategic initiatives. It illustrates how the noble intentions of executives can morph into a challenging environment downstream for employees. The change management experts have the important responsibility of helping executives assess the impacts early and develop strategies for managing the employee experience downstream. Conversely, savvy executives will need to engage their change management experts early to help them assess potential impacts and plan for them. A close collaboration upstream between the executives and the change management experts will result in a better downstream experience for employees.
Guest author Jesse Jacoby is the founder Emergent and Editor of Emergent Journal, Jesse is a recognized expert in business transformation and strategic change management. He and his team partner with Fortune 500 and mid-market companies across North America to deliver successful people and change strategies, ranging from organizational restructurings, technology deployments, shared service implementations, process re-engineering efforts, and mergers.