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How Marketers Can Overcome The Challenge Of Being The 'Change Agent'

In business, marketing is often the agent of change; after all, no one hires a marketing expert to maintain the status quo. However, in my years of experience as a consultant, an executive and an agent, there is often a moment that happens long after the hard work is complete. After the industry deep dive is done, the internal and external collaboration finished, and the codified and constituted strategy celebrated and agreed upon, there comes this pinnacle moment when momentum just stops and teeters in the balance.

As a strategist, you recheck yourself.

You identified the goals and validated them. You offered several paths to a solution with steps and budgets, validated and checked enthusiasm, and agreed on the plan. You outlined the methods, expectations, timeframes, expected outcomes and possible challenges, and then you revalidated the plan.

Have the goals changed? No.

Are we in alignment? Yes.

“I want everything to change, but don’t change a thing.”

You know you can’t ride two horses.wo

Change Resistance

I believe this psychological phenomenon is quite likely responsible for the short average tenure of the frustrated CMO: just 43 months in 2019, according to research from Spencer Stuart (via The Wall Street Journal). Perhaps we could alleviate the frustration level of marketing experts if we better communicated the natural change resistance barriers to our clients and employers as part of the marketing process.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” Dan Millman wrote in Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

There are times, in business and in life, when change is a progressive evolution — and other times when it is a dramatic response and effect of a disruptive cause. Businesses with either the core competencies or adaptability to change will be the ones that thrive and survive; and at the speed that today’s world is changing, if one disruption does not get you, another one could.

Part of the CMO’s job is to anticipate disruption and adapt the company for fluidity and flexibility. Therefore, it is inherently important that marketing works not only externally but also internally as a lynchpin to help anticipate and break down the psychological barriers that occur with change so that the business can remain agile within today’s dynamic markets.

Change-Management Strategies

When you’re revisioning a marketing brand, message or environment, you should consider this type of holistic marketing change in tandem with a change management strategy for the greatest success — particularly when you’re working with a company with a long history and tenure.

In my experience, change resistance can be broken down into four major barriers: cultural, social, organizational and psychological. Understanding which of these barriers come into play, overall and within each department, will be an important part of the change management discovery process.

Cultural barriers include values and beliefs such as work ethic, pride and competition. Often, current employees believe the change agent is projecting their “superiority” and attempting to change the identity of the company — or conversely, that they’re spotlighting the inferiority of current programs.

One way to avoid this projection is to involve the departments directly as part of the process, giving everyone a part to play in the advancement of the organization. This not only allows employees to feel like part of the growth process and improvement, but it can also foster a sense of ownership and pride.

The second barrier, the social barrier, occurs within tight-knit organizations where group solidarity, norms, the hesitation to “rock the apple cart,” and a prevailing “you couldn’t possibly understand what we do” attitude often permeate the organization. This is possibly the most difficult and frustrating barrier marketers can face, particularly if there are dueling groups within the organization.

Understand and identify the challenges each group faces, address them individually and together, and formulate the marketing and change strategy together to ensure each group is feeling “heard” and addressed along the way. This kind of consistent participation and transparency helps ensure you get the least possible resistance.

The third barrier, organization, is more personal, as individuals question how change might affect their power, influence or position within a company. Others might wonder if they will be able to learn a new technology or keep up. Therefore, it is inherently important to develop paths for employees to understand how change will affect them, including new position requirements, training, expectations and next steps. For the upper management, it may help to summarize how the change will create new abilities to take on clients, work and personnel.

Finally, personal tolerance for change varies between individuals. Moving from the old culture to a new culture is an unknown and is subject to everyone’s personal perception. Most people are comfortable with commitment and homeostasis, so negativity surrounding rumors of change could erupt quickly if you don’t have a strategy for managing them.

There is no reason this should not be an exciting time: You are building something new.

For the change agent, providing a well-thought-out strategy that identifies your marketing goals alongside the change goals, departmental challenges, psychological obstacles and solutions will facilitate a smooth adaptation and new direction.

Focusing on the new, providing purpose to employees and departments, and offering a clear vision will provide a stronger path to the future. 

See original article pubished on Forbes here.





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