Organizational change is possibly the only constant professionals can rely on in today’s fast-paced, vigorous business environments. Therefore, organizations need to be agile and able to make decisions quickly. Those who can do this will often face lots of change over a short time.
These changes are organizational-wide or team-based and could result from various factors, including technology, internal operating needs, finances, politics, or even politics. Although change is often a positive thing, many people are afraid of it.
Many employees fear that the news of changes will lead to adverse outcomes. This could include losing a job, a new manager, a restructured company, layoffs at all company levels, and reduced benefits.
Business leaders often launch significant transformation initiatives to gain an edge over the competition or keep their heads above the water. Many of these attempts fail.
It is hard to change, and many people try to stop it. A McKinsey survey found that only 26% of all transformations succeed. However, the most successful transformations share one thing in common: Change is made through empowerment, not mandated from the top.
As a leader, it is your job to set the tone and help your staff navigate organizational change. This can be difficult, especially if you don’t have all the information or feel mixed about your organization’s changes.
However, leadership is all about learning how to manage organizational changes. Here are some key organizational change management strategies that you can use if you face changes in your business.
What are the best strategies for managing change?
There are many ways that leaders can manage change. However, the most effective strategies for managing change include transparency, honesty, communication, and employee participation. Below, we provide more information on these and other essential change management strategies.
Organizational Change Management
1. Take Care
Make sure that you have a plan that covers at least when, how, and why you are proposing change before you present it to your team. It would help if you had a detailed plan that outlines the tasks required to get to your desired destination, assign new or changed responsibilities to anyone involved, create a timeline, and prepare responses to any concerns.
2. Be As Transparent As Possible
Organizational change is tricky because it may occur in stages or require confidentiality from certain people or management teams. Therefore, it’s essential to communicate with your employees as much as possible, especially if the change is significant.
3. Tell The Truth
This rule is easy to apply when the change being made is positive. However, it is more difficult if the change addresses challenging circumstances or has short-term negative consequences. Being honest with your staff is the best way to go. Sugarcoating, unrealistic expectations, and presenting things in a positive light will only make your staff distrustful and suspicious of your motives. Although managers need to give an optimistic face to their staff, be open to acknowledging potential problems and drawbacks.
Maintain open communication between yourself and your employees. Explain why this change is occurring and how it will affect your employees. Open to questions, host team meetings, invite your reports to visit you, and allow them to discuss their concerns and thoughts in a non-judgmental atmosphere.
5. Make A Road Map
Your employees need to understand the current state of your organization, its past, and where it is going. What does the change mean for the company’s past and future? This will show the strategy and thought behind the change and help staff understand how it fits in with, or evolves from, the business model they are used to.
6. Provide Training
If the change requires employees to learn new technologies or processes, make sure they have the necessary training. In addition, ensure employees that training is available at the announcement of a change to prevent them from feeling left behind because they lack experience or skills.
7. Invite Participation
Even though it might not always be possible, employees can have the chance to give feedback or participate in decisions. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to speak up. It can also help you understand other perspectives and see impacts that might not be obvious otherwise.
8. Do Not Expect To Implement Change Overnight
A more planned, strategic rollout is usually better than a quick shift in direction. You’ll give your employees time to adjust, and you can address any concerns well before the change takes place. People are slow to change their habits so allow your employees to know the new method and slowly phase out their old ones.
9. Monitor and Measure
It is essential to monitor the implementation and rollout of any changes once they are in motion. This will ensure that everything runs smoothly and you are ultimately successful. You should keep an eye out for potential problems and take action to correct them. To ensure that your organization is on the right track, you should establish metrics to measure success and keep them updated. To gauge key stakeholders’ opinions and get feedback, it’s essential to keep in touch with them.
10. Demonstrate Strong Leadership
Remember to get back to basics. Keep your eyes on the basics. Encourage your team, show strategic thinking, be flexible and open-minded, and tell them that you will always look out for their best interests. Strong leaders can inspire their team to weather any storms of change with confidence, clarity, and shrewdness, regardless of how difficult they may be.
Building Organizational Change Strategies
A good manager will have a variety of change management strategies that you can use at all times. This is crucial for strong leadership. Although some skills in change management are learned through practical experience, it is best to return to school to further your education in this field.
There are many certificates and degrees available in related fields. For example, a certificate for positive organization development will be heavily focused on change management. You may also consider an MBA program or master’s degree in leadership for a broad education that will allow you to develop other leadership skills.
Start small groups. Leaders often launch transformation initiatives with a big kickoff. It makes sense: Leaders want to establish momentum quickly by clearly communicating their objectives. It is very effective if there is already a consensus around the initiative.
But if the change you desire is truly transformative, there will be fierce opposition. Inertia can prove to be more powerful than fear or hope. You can make the opposition more resistant by launching a massive communication campaign that presents the initiative as a done deal.
The best transformations are made with small groups that are connected and united by a common purpose. These groups are made up of enthusiastic people about the idea but are also willing to try assumptions and recruit their peers later. While leaders can help small groups to connect and share a common purpose, the real work of convincing others must be done on the ground. It’s unlikely that people will take ownership of the effort if they don’t feel like them. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, for example, started with a handful of factories and a few people to implement lean manufacturing practices. This effort quickly included thousands of workers at more than a dozen locations and reduced costs by 25%.
Identify the keystone change. Every change initiative begins with a grievance. For example, costs need to be reduced, and customers need to receive better service, employees need more engagement, etc. Managers who can transform a grievance into a vision for tomorrow will address it and help the organization move forward and create a better future.
However, this vision is not always possible at once. It is much more difficult to achieve a vision than to accomplish it over five years. Most significant problems are interconnected. To begin with, it is crucial to start with a keystone, which is a tangible goal that involves multiple stakeholders and opens the door for larger changes later on.
Network the movement. Too often, we associate large-scale changes with one charismatic leader. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. will forever be associated with the U.S. civil rights movement and the Indian independence movement. Similar to the way that turnarounds at large companies such as IBM and Alcoa were credited to their CEOs, Lou Gerstner or Paul O’Neill,
Leadership at the top is essential for any large-scale transformation. So leadership must be accompanied by building and strengthening relationships through coercion and wooing.
Surviving victory. The most challenging part of any transformation is when the initial goals are achieved. Successful transformation leaders are focused not only on the immediate goals but on the process of changing.
Sometimes, the results of a successful transformation may last decades.
Three of the Most Common Mistakes Leaders Make During Organizational Change
Don’t Be Too Naive: Underestimating the Work
Most leaders want the process of transformational change to be simpler than it is. There’s not a first-time change leader who hasn’t said, “This is so hard than I expected.” Yet, I often ask this question because it usually gets an agape stare and silence.
Transformative change is by its very nature, and it creates discontinuity as it affects the entire organization. The need to change was evident in the case of a financial services company. It meant that every part of the organization would be affected, from sales to operations.
Mixing this with a slew of one-way communication campaigns will lead to many people concluding that the transformation is “all sizzle and no steak.” Those who deal with disconnected, competing, under-resourced initiatives are often left disbelief. They wonder how leaders can be so out-of-touch.
Multifaceted transformational changes must be properly scoped, resourced, and integrated. Each initiative is connected to the next.
Change Laziness And Overestimate The Organization’s Capabilities
Many executives responsible for implementing change forget that the people responsible still have their day jobs. They fail to consider those affected by the change to achieve success while still fulfilling their daily responsibilities.
Many executives quickly get distracted by the next shiny object instead of setting a change in motion. Instead of focusing on the changes required in their leadership, they create videos that remind people of the “strategic import” of change. They also have their communications staff write newsletter articles with their name and declare premature victory by citing progress made on efforts that didn’t lead to tangible change.
Transformation lazily gets reduced to nothing more than a campaign. Transforming an organization requires that you are openly honest about how difficult the work is, the organizational capacity and discipline, and the personal commitments of the executives who will be sponsoring the change.
Communicating change effectively also requires listening twice as much to an organization as you tell it about the change.
Perceived Pet Project: Misjudging The Opinions Of Others
Many transformation initiatives are the result of leaders’ personal convictions and passions. These projects are often successful and lead to advancement for the leader. That’s fine.
This is unless the leader hides it behind lofty spins about “the greater good” or downplays what others have to sacrifice to make change happen. Change sponsors fear that admitting their personal connection to the transformation could hinder their ability to gain commitment from the organization. Leaders who only desire the benefits without the personal costs will lose their commitment.
Leaders who are ready to put in the effort to make a significant change are smart enough to tell the organization how and why they feel the change is essential. On the other hand, leaders who view substantial changes as a smokescreen to help them advance their careers shouldn’t think that the organization won’t see it.