Humans are wired to resist change. Generally we’d much rather maintain the status quo than undergo a change – even if it offers new opportunity and possibility. In today’s business world, change is inevitable. Organizations that embrace change are those that typically deliver the best results and have the strongest brands. These are the organizations that can quickly reinvent themselves when the business strategy requires it – whether due to pressure from competitors, trends in the industry, demands from customers, changes in leadership or introduction of new technology.

Agile Companies Respond Faster to Change

What makes some companies more agile while others struggle and resist even the smallest change? Why do changes in some organizations lead to long-term breakdowns that can leave a negative impact for years? When an organization focuses every effort behind delivery of the customer promise, change becomes easier. This is a practice we call Internal-External Brand Alignment, and recently we published an article on the The Characteristics of Aligned Brands. Agile is one of the characteristics, and it refers to an organization’s ability to respond quickly and undergo transitions when needed.

The biggest hurdle to change usually comes from a lack of understanding about the need for change. Often an organization’s leaders announce a change and fail to thoroughly communicate the context. Instead they focus on tactics and execution. As leaders, they’ve already processed the change and have a solid understanding of why it’s necessary as part of the business strategy and how it will be executed. When they communicate with employees, they often jump ahead to the tactical details and fail to set proper context. A lack of context can cause breakdowns that slow down an organization’s ability to execute and adapt to a change.

When it comes to change in brand-aligned organizations, context is equally important. Employees must understand how a change connects to delivery of the customer promise. When proper context has been communicated, an agile organization can embrace a transition quicker and continue to strongly and successfully deliver the customer promise.

Employees Understand Their Role in Delivering the Customer Promise

When an organization practices Internal-External Brand Alignment, change is often easier because a culture is already in place that strongly connects to the customer promise. In a brand-aligned organization, employees understand the customer promise and how it connects to their jobs. There’s a clear line of sight between an employee’s daily accountabilities and the mission, vision and values of the organization. The work has been done to connect the dots and make them relevant not only to leaders but to front line employees. This is where beliefs connect to behaviors. By firmly grounding an organization’s culture in a shared set of beliefs, then consistent and brand-aligned behaviors will become embedded in the employee mindset.

In this environment, change is more intuitive when the case has been made for how it connects to the customer promise. For these agile, brand-aligned organizations, transitions are easier and breakdowns are less common. The path to laying the context for a change is smoother because the work has already been done to align the internal culture behind the external customer promise.

About Alice Wright

As Director of Client Services, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.

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