Change Is Good Business

Aug 14, 2002

A chief challenge for executives these days is to respect their employees’ apprehension about change while encouraging them to be flexible, writes Carol Hymowitz, columnist for The Wall Street Journal. “Successful businesses, in whatever industry, must continually harness new technology and venture into unfamiliar global markets, embracing a philosophy of perpetual innovation,” she says. “This is most likely to occur if every employee acts as a change agent — identifying procedures that can enrich his or her most successful past practices.”

Larry Johnston, chief executive of Albertson’s, has used the benefits of change as a tool ever since he took over 16 months ago. He has restructured the company, closing hundreds of under-performing stores and cutting 30,000 jobs to reduce staff to 200,000. But he also recognized that his actions frightened people. “One of my biggest challenges,” Mr. Johnston says, “was stabilizing their apprehension and making them understand the changes were a good thing for them, too.”

Mr. Johnston also brought in new senior management, including several women. “The more diverse your team, the more accepting your employees will be of change because they’ll follow people who are like them,” he says. Above all, he believes good communication is central to success. “Employees usually see when a company needs to change,” he adds, “but they also need to be led.”

Moderator Comment: Are most upper management executives positive role models for change within their organizations?

Perhaps there would be less apprehension about change
in business if it hadn’t become synonymous with being out of a job.

Authors such as Peter Block (Stewardship; The Empowered
) and Lance Secretan (Reclaiming Higher Ground) have written
about creating organizational change without leaving anyone behind. We highly
recommend that managers looking to create change read these works before embarking
on the usual slash and burn path. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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