Why you and your company should love change
Sizwe Lungelo Hadebe

Sizwe Lungelo Hadebe, Consultant in Change Management at 21st Century bears all…

“Over the past two years, we were all impacted by the unplanned change. Organisations were surely not spared from the necessity to improve structures and engaging in working models of which they have not much knowledge. Moreover, some of these working models, such as the hybrid working model, had no policies to regulate and performance management was - and still is, a nightmare for most organisations. To some extent, our knowledge and normal operational philosophies became irrelevant and could not be the vehicle to the desired strategic future state. Organisations are stretched and challenged to be more agile and experiential learning has never been so imperative. At 21st Century, we have been engaged in a major research journey as we try to learn from our wide clientele what works and what does not to equip us with a better knowledge to counsel organisations on how to best circumvent threats to organisational success and sustainability. 

“In the prime of my life, I was also faced with harsh unplanned changes when I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (kidney failure) and a litany of other health complications resulting in my acquired disability. I sometimes wish I had a warning or at least knew what to expect after my first episode. This is probably the experience of most business leaders; the desire to forecast and be aware of possible threats. The reality of change, whether there was reasonable awareness (planned) or unplanned, is that it requires tools to manage and minimise casualties in the process. Dealing with the reality (although maybe dealing is not good diction in this case), rather embracing the reality required more than the sessions with the psychologist. I needed to be well equipped on the scientific and psychosocial implications of all these diseases I was confronted with. Most importantly was the learning deduced from others who have traveled the journey and thus have more knowledge of the change. I am not, in any way, intending to say that my change was synonymous with other patients but rather the tools of managing and facilitating the change, of course contextually applied to my own experiences, were helpful.

“The nature of change, whether planned or unplanned, tends to render some skills, methods, and knowledge obsolete. The psychological impact of accepting that what you have known and used to successfully carry out your key performance areas is no longer relevant is resulting in the disruption of employee wellbeing and ultimately affects the culture of organisations. Equipping employees and management with tools to mitigate such negative impacts has never been so urgent. Anything that threatens the organisational culture is bad for the strategic future of any organisation. The trend around the world, amongst thriving organisations, is to intentionally invest in interventions that ensure a good and healthy organisational culture as dealing with team dynamics and other feuds takes attention away from the core business of the organisation. Like the changes brought about by disease and disability in my life, which required acceptance that there are functions I may no longer be able to fulfill in the fashion accustomed to. When I suffered a stroke, holding a pen was almost impossible and it was difficult to capture my speech as I had experienced neurological damage. The process of rehabilitation, with the assistance of physiotherapists and occupational therapists, required more effort and desire from me. I was given exercises to help with relearning how to write and those to exercise my mouth to ensure an audible speech and the onus was on me to ensure thorough engagement in these activities. Organisations often struggle with stakeholder management when it comes to labour representatives and detractors against the change. Effective change management requires an intentional invitation of all stakeholders to desire to be part of the change. The conventional leadership style forces change especially to lower levels, and this has proved not to reap the desired results. A more inclusive approach ensures employees take initiative in their respective roles to ensure that the change is more effectively facilitated.

“Stress, anxiety, and depression characterised my rehabilitation process as I kept failing and not making the desired progress. All this time, I kept using my old handwriting script as a guide to learn how to write again. Failure ushered me into a very uncomfortable space of ‘unlearning’. This was the only way to be able to learn again. As painful and uncomfortable as the unlearning process may be, it is fundamental to unleash new abilities when confronted with change. Organisations are also challenged to unlearn some of the old practices to ensure that new strategies and innovative ideas are unleashed for organisational growth, productivity, and competitiveness. In the same vein, organisations are required to facilitate this unlearning process on employees to ensure a deconstruction of social or occupational constructs to shape an organisational culture supportive of the change. I can still write, but simply differently from before – actually better.

“As I tried, with all effort, to embrace and familiarise myself with the change, it required a more consistent approach to ensure I still have the quality of life in the middle of all the jazz! The reinforcement of all the tools to facilitate the change that has formed part of my daily life required reprioritisation of time, dietary plans, leisure activities, and many other dimensions of my life. When planning engagements, it required not to clash with my dialysis times or not to be in the evenings if there is no one to assist me as night blindness has come with the change. For organisations to deduce much benefit and advantage from any form of change, it requires reprioritisation of budget, structures, and a willingness to invest time and energy in facilitating the change. I cannot overemphasise the importance of training Change Champions or Agents to assist fellow colleagues when night blindness as a result of the change becomes a challenge. Change will always be part of our lives (personally and otherwise), and with proper facilitation and management, can turn into maximum and profitable value. With the many intersectionality’s of diversity and experiential learning of change management, I am surely equipped with helping many organisations best capitalise on their own changes.

“I am a sucker for CHANGE!”