Very few people are entirely comfortable with change. We all like a sense of consistency in our lives in one form or another. Familiarity leads to comfort and provides us with something to depend on.
Yet comfort is often the enemy of business success. In the work environment, comfort means complacency. If you’ve always done things a certain way, it can take a monumental effort to change. What’s more, when it comes to organizational change, you’re also going to need employees and managers to get on board to implement and sustain it.
These days, getting comfortable with change in a business environment is no longer optional. Change to the status quo is inevitable, and it’s occurring at a faster pace than ever before. Only those organizations that can learn to harness change will remain genuinely competitive.
Change management refers to any process in which the organization adapts core components of its strategy, business model, or operations. The areas that might be included in change management are vast.
It could refer to complex process changes, such as digital transformation. Or it could refer to something less tangible, such as a fundamental shift in corporate culture. Other areas that might be captured in a change management process include restructuring or mergers and acquisitions.
These changes can come about in two main ways. First, adaptive changes are those made slowly over time. The change is introduced and managed incrementally, for example, iterating on a process or business goal.
Transformational change, on the other hand, is a far more drastic shift in the organization. Since they’re usually driven by external market forces that threaten the business’s success, they’re far more urgent in nature. Transformation usually involves change that will touch the whole company in one way or another. They’re a lot more challenging to implement due to the scale of the transformation and the speed at which it must occur.
First, it’s essential to understand what exactly is driving the need for change in your organization. It could be due to:
Once you understand what is driving the change, you can decide which is more appropriate: rapid transformation or incremental change.
How will you know if the change has been implemented? The results will be easy to behold for some types of transformation, such as a new way of operating. However, for less tangible change processes, it can be more challenging to track progress.
Either way, a detailed plan of action is critical to effective change management. The plan should have clear goals and objectives. Milestones should be outlined so progress can be tracked. The plan should also incorporate tactics and strategies for engaging the workforce with the change process to help drive its success.
People can be highly suspicious of change, especially when most change initiatives have failed in the past. Leadership must do everything they can to remain transparent about:
When employees feel that you’re honest about change, they’re far more likely to get behind it. At the very least, they won’t feel blindsided and will be less inclined to disrupt the process actively.
Transformation projects can be complex. Even urgently required change takes careful planning and management. Inevitably, you’ll come across challenges and unexpected roadblocks along the way.
Establish a risk profile for your transformation plan early on and identify interdependencies between individual initiatives. That way, you’ll have far fewer surprises to contend with and a plan for dealing with pre-identified risks.
Plans are one thing but seeing them through to completion is another. While plans may change, it’s essential to always keep your end goals in sight. Change management takes a high level of commitment to drive sustained success.
With championing coming from the executive team, you can ensure your organization doesn’t lose momentum. Transformation must remain front and center in terms of your priorities. To stay competitive in today’s world requires change and innovation to be woven into the fabric of your strategy and your culture.
Large-scale change often touches every department and function in the business in some way or another. When you take all the interdependencies into account for significant transformation, you’ll likely need a strong sense of collaboration between departments and team members to embrace and implement change.
There are many benefits to getting management and employees beyond senior executives involved in change implementation. First, it allows them to understand the change drivers and desired end state. Second, it helps to foster that sense of collaboration.
When members of your organization feel involved in organizational change initiatives, it hands them back a sense of control. In addition, it encourages ownership and participation, making your change process far smoother and more successful.
Personally, looking at a high-level change management plan, you may feel it’s hard to see any negatives. You believe that the successful implementation of this transformation will lead to better overall business outcomes.
However, it can be a different story for people on the ground whose day-to-day roles are deeply impacted. They may have valid concerns, suggestions, and questions to help discover roadblocks early and provide a perspective you hadn’t considered. For that reason, it’s essential to stay open to feedback from all levels of the organization, from top management to those on the front lines.
If your organization isn’t experienced in change management, it’s a good idea to consider hiring an external consultant to help you manage the planning and implementation phases. Outside expertise provides a fresh perspective and proven techniques for managing change effectively.
Internally, you can also identify high-performing, innovative employees who can help to lead the charge within their departments and teams. These individuals should be appointed to the change management project team to help oversee and implement the process.
Change doesn’t have to be scary for you or your employees or detrimental to your organization. Instead, getting in the right mindset empowers you to embrace change and leverage it effectively for competitive advantage and sustained success.
I’ve been leading organizations through transformation for 20+ years. Through my keynote sessions and team workshops, I help organizations reduce the chaos associated with navigating change for more successful outcomes. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help your organization move forward through change as effectively as possible.