How to manage change in your organization
If you're part of the team instructed to manage change in your organization, then you've got your work cut out. Humans aren't typically geared towards change; in fact, many are scared of rocking the boat or of the pitfalls that could arise from heading off in a significantly new direction.
The born leaders among us, those with vision and the desire for growth and success, know that it's the only way to realize their dreams. It's the only way to win, after all. For these forward-thinkers, if you're standing still, you might as well be moving backward.
Albert Einstein once said (according to popular belief),
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
In today's society, and even more so within our business worlds, he was absolutely on the button. Today's technology changes faster than you could ever hope to keep up with; expectation and demand are higher than ever, and expecting your teams to change with all of that without disruption to their existing roles and beliefs would be absurd.
We're going to look at some of the practical points that ensure the necessary changes happen and how to make them stick by providing managers and employees with the tools and the desire to believe in them.
Far too often, such change fails to achieve its anticipated goals and targets, and far too often, to even get off the ground.
Make sure you're one of the businesses achieving change from growth instead of whimpering out despite all of your best intentions. The following pointers will help guide you through the basics toward success.
What is organizational change management?
Project Management Institute features an excellent and in-depth conference paper into managing change in organizations, summing up change management as:
"Change management is a comprehensive, cyclic, and structured approach for transitioning individuals, groups, and organizations from a current state to a future state with intended business benefits."
We can't put it better than that, but to dig a little deeper, the paper covers its description's key areas.
Comprehensive means covering all angles, eventualities, and resources, from people, culture, process, infrastructure, and technology.
Cyclic deals with reviewing the process and adapting it to new information at specific points.
Without structure, you're living in chaos. A map from A to B—or from 'existing state' to 'future state' in this situation—is a must.
Transition allows us to grow at the healthiest pace for each project. It also allows for process reviews, restructuring, and the feedback points we need to consider and apply to adapt to all the relevant data sources and what they reveal.
Finally, the business benefits delivered by the change may be numerous or singular: financial, efficiency-based, creating new opportunities, delivering quality to workers' lives, and more. Whatever they are, these are our goals, and if we fail to achieve them, our attempt at organizational change has been futile.
Why is change management important?
Without careful observation and application, far too many organizational changes never arrive at their intended destination. Going back to the previously mentioned paper, we see that around 60 to 70% of change initiatives fail to realize their objectives or potential. That translates into not only reaching your ultimate goal but to associated incompetency in three key areas.
You don't just fail to achieve your financial or growth results and the many associated benefits that they would bring at each level from such a significant overhaul in operations.
You invest valuable resources trying to make life better for you, your employees, teams, managers, to increase profits, boost company culture, beliefs, and more—and what for? If you don't reach your targets, then it's pretty much for nothing. Don't waste anything so valuable. Make every change count.
A huge part of organizational change is how we introduce and transform our staff into the belief of a new system. They need to see it as a bonus for them, and not just the business—how to truly live those changes with the eagerness for personal success is just as important as the impact it delivers as a whole.
Failing to achieve targets won't only impact figures but destroy the morale you worked so hard to instill in your teams, whatever level they operate at, leaving them deflated and with less belief than when you began.
How to manage change in an organization?
On a practical level:
- Define the change, create a plan, and align it to goals.
- Understand how the change impacts your teams and individuals.
- Create clear communication channels.
- Provide training.
- Ensure you have a first-class feedback and support structure.
- Measure your data and refine your process.
For your people:
- Adopting not adapt – helps your people believe in creating genuine change and not seeing it as an inconvenience to filter into their existing system.
- Don't dictate: explain and encourage.
- Engage at every step – promote the feeling of belonging.
- Create pride in performance and belief in the product.
- Include everyone in the plan, from the very top to the ground floor.
Practical project management for organizational change
We outlined a few points towards the practical already, but how should you implement them?
Define goals, design a system, and create plans with timelines
Change for change's sake isn't going to help anyone—change should be about evolution. The key considerations should be why you need to change, what you need to change, and who these changes will affect?
Ultimately, the who part of the question should always relate to everyone. However, some players, teams, and organization locations will be more affected than others.
How does the change impact your organization?
By considering how each department will be affected by your new plan, you're in a better position to troubleshoot issues before they happen. The deeper you dive into every department and process, the more prepared you are to streamline further changes.
One of the key issues managers fail to consider is how their employees will meet the new changes. It's almost always assumed that staff will fall into line and do as instructed—it's their job, after all. But disgruntled or confused employees are likely to become your biggest hurdles. A little sensible foresight will help alleviate such issues.
Communication is key
Creating true multi-directional communication systems with everyone involved is a must. Delivering your plan to those with the biggest roles in carrying it to completion needs to be flawless.
At the same time, discussing how the change is affecting those left delivering the work after a new system is installed is a far more direct route into how well it's working. Has it made life easier, more productive, faster flowing and efficient, or just more work for a few marginally improved figures?
Assure all employees that training will help
One of the significant worries while creating change is that your staff may be worrying about whether they can perform in their new roles. It's a rational part of the fear involved in change within human psychology.
Feeling safe that they're being looked after on every level, having the best tools provided for the job, and delivered at times that won't impact their current role and tasks, is a sure-fire way to earn their engagement into a new direction.
Data, data, data
Change managers shouldn't get so involved in the method that they forget why they instigated the process in the first place. The best way to keep pushing forward is to measure the results at every stage—and that means having a plan in place of what to evaluate.
Data is our gift. It shows where we're winning, how to create more of the same—and where we're failing, and what it's going to take to put things straight.
Data isn't just about facts and figures—it's also about morale and satisfaction. Creating an unhappy and overstretched workforce is just as significant as failing finances.
Losing key employees due to a poorly delivered or poorly functioning system delivers vast expense and impacts your process in ways you may not have had the foresight to consider.
And with that in mind, we move onto why your people are the most important resources you've got.
Creating a culture and converting your people to the cause
Company culture plays a considerable part in staff retention and turnover. As we all understand, staff turnover is a recurring problem for businesses, as recruiting costs significantly impact business budgets and financial resources.
Belief delivers the best results
Creating teams that feel as though they belong matters more than many realize.
Everyone needs to be on-board and believe that this is the best possible move for the business as a whole, right down to their part of the operation. That way, they'll live the changes. They'll be invested and flow in the direction you need them to, instead of trying to stick to the old ways, swimming against the tide.
Delivering ownership at every level
Giving each player a defined role with its targets and goals, they should find it easier to understand the new system and what it will take to succeed. It will also give them opportunities to explain where it's impractical, unfeasible, or where the new system demands further change.
This is where healthy communication and feedback avenues truly deliver. Praise will encourage staff to further successes, and understanding when it's not as forthcoming will create the relationships that the best teams thrive on.
Leading by example
It's just as important for leaders to show that same level of belief and delivery so that responsibility throughout the system lies at every level. Leading by example, accepting responsibility for teething troubles or disaster from the top will make it easier for everyone to follow suit.
More than ever, we must innovate to keep up with the competition and act on what it takes to improve our practices if we're going to survive and thrive.
Growth and change must be handled carefully, with wisdom and warmth, if our teams and employees will have all the resources they need for the job.
Devising the right plan to cover all the angles is vital. Having the best team in place to carry out its management is just as important. Driving your resources means far more than just pointing your key players in the right direction, but traveling the road with them—from the top of the ladder to the base of your business.