Change Management: 3 Predictions for 2019

When the concept of change management as it relates to digital transformation first entered corporate strategy discussions, it was often viewed as an isolated objective. Getting people to accept and embrace change involved a lot of c-suite cheerleading but little else.

But as business and society have begun to transform digitally, so has our understanding of agility and how to foster it. We have started to realize that getting people to embrace change is not an objective to be met and promptly filed away, but rather an unprecedented and ongoing culture shift—one that involves persuading people to let go of standards, habits and unwritten rules that have been in place for nearly a century. Culture change of that magnitude is not achieved quickly and easily, nor does it happen in a vacuum.

Getting people to embrace change is not an objective to be met and promptly filed away, but rather an unprecedented and ongoing culture shift

In recent years, organizations have improved their approaches, but they still haven’t kept pace with today’s rapid technological change.1

How will 2019 be different? What shifts will help business leaders prepare their workforce for the present and future of work? Here are a few predictions:

Change management will gain more credibility. Peter Drucker talked about change management more than 25 years ago—in a 1992 Harvard Business Review essay he described how the modern organization must be designed for constant change: “It is the nature of knowledge that it changes fast and that today’s certainties always become tomorrow’s absurdities.” Drucker estimated that the transformation to a knowledge economy would be accomplished by 2010 or 2020.

We’re not there yet, but, if recent research is any indication, we’re getting closer. IDC predicts that by 2020, at least 55 percent of organizations will be “digitally determined, transforming markets and reimagining the future through new business models and digitally enabled products and services.” In addition, direct digital transformation investment spending will reach $5.5 trillion by 2021, according to IDC.

Change management strategies will be applied more frequently and more broadly. Business leaders are recognizing the key role change management plays in project success and will therefore continue to employ change efforts across their organization this year—both formal and informal.

In a recent survey conducted by Prosci, participants observed significant shifts in approach:

–Larger numbers of employees engaged in change management
–A focus on building change management capabilities across all levels of the organization
–The use of change management strategies for informal changes
–Change management as a requirement instead of an option




In addition, three quarters of participants in the Prosci survey reported that they are integrating change management with project management—and, as a result, are meeting or exceeding objectives more often.

The relationship between learning and change management will grow stronger. Digital transformation success hinges on many factors, but mainly on an organization’s ability to transform how employees get their work done. For that, companies must put systems and strategies in place that focus on the individual.

In a Deloitte study, 90 percent of employees surveyed said they need to update their skills yearly to work effectively in a digital world. Nearly 50 percent of those surveyed said they need to update their skills continuously to be effective. Only a third of respondents said they are satisfied with how their organization is helping them prepare for working in digital business.

Business leaders are becoming more aware of the individual’s critical role in digital success—according to a Tech Pro Research poll, 44 percent of the 2019 survey respondents said employee training is a top IT priority, which is a change over previous years.

Our understanding of change management and its relationship to digital success has expanded significantly over the last 10 years, but there’s still much work to be done. The mandate for 2019 will be to put knowledge into practice—to work even harder at preparing people for the present and future of work.

1. An October 2018 McKinsey report suggests that digital transformation success has become even more difficult to achieve—only 16 percent of respondents say their digital transformations have improved performance and equipped them to sustain changes in the long term, while an additional 7 percent report that performance improved but was not sustained. In previous McKinsey studies, the success rate was nearly 30 percent.

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