The only thing guaranteed in life is change. It is persistent and can be unsettling and unpredictable. Most organizations are now feeling and living the impacts of dynamic, rapidly changing environments and are challenged with pivoting quickly and successfully. Those pivots may require behavioral, strategic or operational changes — or a combination. Sometimes, change can occur with planning and preparation — but not always.

So, how can an organization cope when change occurs without advance notice?

Change cannot happen without the cooperation of all impacted stakeholders. In fact, several reasons a transformation can fall short include an organization’s failure to:

    • Communicate the transformation and the vision effectively and regularly (it cannot be check-in-the-box activity with the expectation that once an announcement is made, a successful change will follow).
    • Gain stakeholder buy-in and employee involvement (a collaborative dialogue is more successful than one-way communication).
    • Remove or reduce the obstacles that hinder the transformation (e.g., through technology, resources, information and/or training).
    • Empower teams to move forward, make decisions without becoming lost in a complicated matrix of hierarchies and approval processes, and take calculated risks when possible (creating a safe space and support for any failures).

Once the decisions around the change or transformation are clear, the organization will see the most success by using what a 2017 Gartner research report called an “open source” approach to change management rather than the traditional top-down method. Here, organizations can also their leverage learning and development (L&D) function to influence and enable change. Here’s how:

Fostering a Culture of Learning

L&D functions have the most impact on engagement when they have established a strong learning culture across the organization. Without that integration of a learning mindset into the organization’s culture, though change can occur successfully, it may take more time.

Organizations can foster a learning culture by:

    • Cultivating a growth mindset across the organization.
    • Empowering employees to take responsibility for their own growth and development.
    • Supporting employees’ growth through self-driven and professional skill-building opportunities by leveraging the L&D function’s content offerings through the company’s learning management system (LMS) and other sources.
    • Holding leaders accountable for encouraging their team members to take time for learning by, for example, making it a performance measure.

Partnering With L&D Functions

When leaders partner with their L&D functions, they can enable:

    • The identification of skills and competencies that support accelerated change.
    • The leveraging of learning resources and capabilities that the organization already has.
    • The creation of streamlined, simplified, sustainable and scalable offerings to support change (e.g., a peer or manager coaching program that helps create a more positive experience around change, including inspiring trust in leaders).

Spending some time up front to create a strong foundation of learning, understanding and communicating change along with the intended outcomes, engaging stakeholders more collaboratively, and working with L&D will produce greater success in business transformation than what organizations have seen in the past.