In today’s rapidly changing business environment, ambiguity is becoming an increasingly common challenge for organisations.
Organisations must navigate uncertain and unpredictable situations to remain competitive, whether adapting to new technology, responding to shifting market conditions or adjusting to regulatory changes.
Change management programs can be particularly vulnerable to ambiguity, as they often involve significant disruption and uncertainty for employees, stakeholders, and customers. However, organisations that can effectively manage ambiguity are more likely to successfully implement change programs that achieve their desired outcomes.
In this post, we’ll explore strategies organisations can use to manage ambiguity and ensure a successful change program.
Develop a Clear Vision and Strategy
A clear and compelling vision and strategy are essential for navigating ambiguity during change programs. Organisations must have a clear understanding of why the change is necessary, what the desired outcomes are, and how they will achieve them.
Further, it is imperative that the employees understand the vision and strategy and can see the benefits for themselves; understanding the ‘why’ will greatly improve traction with employee engagement.
A well-defined strategy provides a roadmap for navigating ambiguity and acts as a key source of communication to keep employees informed and engaged.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! It is imperative for tackling ambiguity during change and transformation programs.
Communication must be clear, consistent, and frequent and must involve all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and partners. It should involve the use of multiple channels and include two-way forums.
Organisations should be transparent about the uncertainty and ambiguity inherent in the change process and provide regular updates on progress, challenges, and milestones.
The aim should be to provide clarity over certainty and be clear on what is not changing. This helps build trust and engagement and reduces the risk of misunderstanding and resistance.
Build Resilience and Adaptability
Resilience and adaptability are essential life skills and are key contributors to building a tolerance for ambiguity in the workplace. Leaders must be prepared to adapt to unexpected challenges and be willing to pivot their approach when necessary.
Both resilience and adaptability can be developed as a skill and capability; investing in building this skill set across an organisation will significantly reduce the stress and anxiety associated with ambiguity.
This requires a culture of creativity, courage, and curiosity, as well as the ability to quickly learn from failures and adjust. Organisations must also be willing to experiment and take calculated risks while remaining focused on their goals and priorities.
Employees are often the most impacted by change and can be a valuable source of ideas, feedback, and support.
Due to the nature of our organisational structures and operating models, employees can feel ‘left in the dark’ or, worse still, ‘ignored’ when it comes to developing and implementing change programs. Ironically, they are the very people who we want to ‘get on board with the change!’
Organisations should involve employees in the change process, seek their input and feedback and provide opportunities for them to share their concerns and ideas.
Activating a variety of tools, such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, Q&A forums, and test & challenge sessions, will enable maximum engagement across the organisation.
Engaging employees should be a no-brainer but is often overlooked or under-done due to time constraints. The cost of low engagement is high and long-lasting. Without it, you risk a lack of ownership, commitment, and increased resistance and pushback.
Track Progress and Adjust
Finally, organisations must monitor progress and adjust their approach as needed. Change programs are inherently uncertain and ambiguous, and predicting every outcome or challenge is impossible.
Organisations must have systems in place to track progress, identify issues and opportunities, and adjust as needed.
These systems should highlight the opportunities to celebrate wins, adapt communications, increase engagement levels, revisit resilience and adaptability training and signal how people accept the changes.
In conclusion, navigating ambiguity is essential in our increasingly complex world of work. Research conducted pre and post the COVID-19 pandemic indicates a frighteningly low level of tolerance for ambiguity in our workplaces, with circa 10% of workers feeling a clear comfort with ambiguity.
Building a tolerance of ambiguity is a learnable and crucial skill; it stands alongside adaptability, resilience, versatility, and creativity; organisations must create a culture that embraces ambiguity.