Business as Usual (BAU) is continually being replaced with the concept of “Change as Usual” (CAU). This has emerged as a crucial strategy for organisations aiming to sustain and enhance their competitive advantage. The demise of once-dominant players like Kodak, Nokia, ToysRus and Godfreys, all companies with strong brands and combined centuries of operation serves as a reminder of what can happen when companies fail to adapt to changing market dynamics. The necessity is of embedding resilience through effective Organisational Change Management (OCM), with a focus on strategic alignment starting from the top.

The Imperative for Change

The business environment is marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), making adaptability and continuous innovation vital for survival and success. Research shows that organisations with robust change management practices are significantly more likely to meet their project and strategic objectives (Prosci). However, embracing change is more than just not failing —it’s about thriving in a world where change is the only constant.

Growth mindset and individual talent and growth is critical for organisational growth and sustainability. Talen plays a key role in working into the unknown and developing talent for these conditions is critical, as is outlined in a Harvard Business Publishing figure as below.

Harvard business publishing

Aligning the Board and Executive Leadership

For CAU to be effective, it requires more than just operational adjustments; it demands alignment at the highest levels of an organisation—starting with the board and executive leadership. This alignment is critical because strategic decisions about change management set the tone for the entire organisation. Leaders must not only endorse but actively champion the processes of change, ensuring that they are integral to the organisation’s culture and operational ethos.

Building Organisational Resilience through Change Management

Organisational resilience refers to the ability of a business to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to incremental changes and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper. A key component of building this resilience is developing an enterprise-wide capability for change management. This includes:

– Proactive Planning: Anticipating potential changes and preparing strategies in advance.

– Flexibility: Cultivating an organisational culture that values flexibility and agility.

– Recovery: Implementing systems that enable quick recovery from setbacks.

The Prosci ADKAR model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) provides an example  framework for addressing the human aspects of change, which are often the most challenging yet critical for successful transformation (Aexlos)

But successful CAU is more than just a framework – it is an ethos which is lived and breathed by organisations, it takes the fear in change and turns the nervous energy into excitement and enthusiasm. It is genuine commitment to meeting people where they are at and helping them understand the need for change and the role that they can play. After all, most people just want to know ‘where are we going’ and ‘how can I contribute to get there’

Case Studies of Success

Here are several case studies of organisations that have effectively implemented the concept of “Change as Usual” (CAU), demonstrating the importance of proactive change management:

1. Buurtzorg (Home Health Care): This Dutch organisation dramatically improved performance by removing middle management layers, empowering nurses to make decisions about patient care. This approach not only enhanced employee satisfaction but also improved patient care outcomes HBS Working Knowledge.

2. Microsoft’s Cultural Transformation: Under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft underwent a significant cultural transformation. The shift focused on moving from a “know-it-all” to a “learn-it-all” ethos, encouraging openness, learning, and collaboration across the company’s global workforce. This transformation was driven by the belief that the capacity to learn and adapt was crucial for the organisation’s future success (Harvard Business Publishing).

3. Nieuw-West Public Management Transformation: A public sector example comes from Nieuw-West, where an organisational transformation initiated proactive cultural changes even before the actual transformation took place. This approach helped the organisation prepare for and manage the uncertainty and stress associated with significant changes, demonstrating how cultural adaptation can be both reactive and proactive in response to transformation needs (Emerald Insight).

These examples illustrate that for cultural change to be effective and sustainable, it often requires a combination of leadership commitment, strategic alignment, and continuous engagement with all organisational levels. Each of these organisations demonstrated a commitment to integrating change into their core operations and mindset, making adaptability a central component of their organisational culture.

Challenges and Strategies for Overcoming Resistance

Resistance to change is a natural human tendency, but it can be managed through effective communication, participation, and education strategies. Leadership must be proactive in addressing fears and concerns, providing clear reasons for change and detailing the benefits not just for the organization but for employees at all levels. It is about winning hearts and minds – in a genuine way.

Transformations often concentrate on the tangible elements that necessitate action — delineating system specifications, change in organisational structure, and timelines. This represents the ‘yang’ aspect, the essence of structure and movement in change. However, the ‘yin’ — equally crucial for equilibrium and transformation — cannot be overlooked. It includes the more subtle, human facets of change: the attitudes and behaviours that flow and fluctuate. Unlike the predictable trajectory of ‘yang’, ‘yin’ is fluid, dynamic, and non-linear, filled with potential energy and a multitude of triggers for reaction.

Both areas require adequate attention in order to realise the full potential of the growth and transformation

Change as Usual is not just a methodology but a mindset that must permeate all levels of an organisation. By fostering a culture that not only anticipates change but also embraces it, organisations can build the resilience needed to face future challenges. The alignment of leadership at both the board and executive levels is crucial in modelling the behaviours and attitudes necessary for this cultural shift. Ultimately, CAU can transform potential disruptions into opportunities for growth and innovation, ensuring that the organisation remains relevant and competitive in a continually evolving world.