When is an organisation ready for change?

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How to manage change in an organisation


We often hear that organisations use the excuse of focusing on basics first before considering adopting new things, innovative working methods or to focus on better internal and external communications.

Because the organisation is in a difficult period to survive, company executives argue that ‘we should not take any risks in trying new things. We should concentrate on improving business results asap’.


When is an organisation ready for change? Learning from Apple

Let’s learn from an organisation which has a leader who thought different.

After being away for quite some years, Steve Jobs returned to Apple at a time that Apple was going almost bankrupt and was in a very difficult position.

He became the new CEO and put himself on the payroll for just $ 0,01. He decided that it was time to make drastic changes. First he was able to get a loan from his buddies at the great and tremendous successful organisation Microsoft.


The Apple Organization: Think different

In 1996/ 1997, Apple reduced the product portfolio; they started the implementation worldwide of a new enterprise system (SAP) and implemented a new clear company philosophy called “think different”.

Jobs philosophy was that Apple should not sell just a product. It should be an experience so that when the consumer buys it and shows it to their friends, these friends immediately should get jealous.

All employees needed to know what they were standing for within this new philosophy and the rumour inside Apple was spread at that time, that you better know yourself what value you were adding to the Apple organisation in this new spirit.

Otherwise, you might end up at the HR department with possible consequences.


Change of mindset

During this period I held various Logistics and Supply Chain Management positions in Apple Europe.

I remember feeling shocked at the beginning and very nervous about the future, but also excited to start swimming in deep water that I did not know where would it end.

This complete change of mindset was communicated very effectively, by introducing many changes that you could not miss being involved in.

Without the social media tools available at that time, Jobs was still able to orchestrate top down, but also bottom up the communication in his organisation in such a way that his stunning speeches were not only noticed by the journalists, the market, but also by his employees.

I remember having to remove the dust in my mindset and start thinking different, out of the box.


The outcome

We all know now what the results have been of this changed philosophy in Apple and the company even surpassed the company valuation of Microsoft.

Who would have believed this to happen in 1998?

Looking back, I feel unbelievably proud of having been part of the team that made the most significant changes at the beginning.

During this period I gained tremendous experience that I will never forget and I have used ever after in my career.


What you expect from a leader

This example demonstrates that companies and people really feel the need for making drastic changes when they are in rough weather and feeling economic difficulties.

In these periods, organisations are open for these major changes with an open and a clear communication top-down, but also bottom-up combined with charisma and clear leadership.

This is what they expect from a leader!

This way, you transform a negative element into a positive point to come out of these difficult times even better than ever before!

When organisations are performing reasonable, these kind of drastic changes are much more difficult to implement and management / employees are much more sceptical in accepting these.


 Paul Hartong, Advisor, Celpax


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