Manage Change, or It Will Manage You: True marketing innovation requires top-down cultural buy-in

The success of marketing innovation correlates with the success of implementing change. Marketing may realize that all systems and processes must be retooled to become more customer centric. However, if the cultural change is not managed successfully, these will be just empty words. Here are the four hard-and-fast rules to enable change without disabling innovation:

  1. Be an evangelist for the vision.

Employees view prospective change to corporate culture through the lens of FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt. Employees need to understand why change is occurring, how it will occur and what the result will look like. Show them the expected future state and explain why it is better for the company and better for them. Be very clear about the behaviors that will deliver the future into their hands.

  1. Reinforce lasting change with measurement and rewards.

Things in corporations that are not measured or rewarded do not happen. Marketing may mandate that the new direction is customer centricity, but if things like customer satisfaction, retention and lifetime value are not in the comp package, nothing will change.

  1. Train the new skills that employees will need to succeed.

If you expect individuals to do things differently, you must provide them with training. Successful training is a process, not an event. Employees need time to listen, think about and adopt new concepts and skills. As much as possible, train through group interaction. When people in a nonjudgmental environment are encouraged to exercise and apply new concepts, they are more likely to retain and internalize what they’ve learned.

  1. Walk the talk.

Lasting change does not happen from the bottom up; it only happens from the top down. It is important that at each level of the organization, and within each department, employees see a person of influence who is a role model for the changes in behavior. And most of all, they must see management as consistently living and breathing the change—that is, they must see that the person who signs their check is committed. If the organization fails at this, the other three conditions don’t mean a thing.