Each of us all around the world has experienced a lot of change this year: How and where we work. How our children learn. How we socialize. How we buy groceries. The list is long.
As I’ve watched organizations and people react to these changes I have reflected on the rarity of successful unmanaged change. Unmanaged change usually fails to yield the desired result. It can often leave damage in its wake. In contrast, organizational change management, implemented well, can create a legacy of success. That is why methods for organizational change exist.
Change Management Methods that Work
Successful organizational change management focuses on managing people, rather than only on managing the change itself.
You can see this truth as the foundation of Prosci’s methodology-acronym, ADKAR. It tells us to build Awareness, create Desire, develop Knowledge, foster Abilities, and then Reinforce the change. What’s all that about? Focusing on the needs of people.
With people as your focus, here are four keys to successful organizational change management:
This may sound obvious, but leaders must plan and prepare to manage change. To implement successful change, you need to know what you want to do and why you want to do it. You need to get the entire leadership team on board and avoid blindsiding key players. If leaders are not united, employees might pit them against each other to get what they want. If team members sense that some leaders are not fully committed to the change, they might not embrace it.
The next step is to articulate to your employees a clear and compelling case for change. First you must tie that case to your organization's strategic objectives. Then you must provide an action plan for how to get there. Employees need to know what to expect. As you roll out the various phases of the change, update employees on how the phases are progressing.
When making your case, being rational and logical often is not enough. Emotions often run high in times of change. The first reaction of most employees will not be to wonder how the change will affect the company’s bottom line. Their first thought will be, “But how will this affect me?” If you ignore their fears and concerns, you may find it difficult to gain their buy-in.
Along those lines, communication should be a two-way street. You need to share your vision with your employees, but you also need to track and assess the rollout of the change. Metrics and employee feedback can aid in this regard.
As early as possible, identify key influencers and stakeholders. These are the people who, regardless of their job titles, play a key role in influencing their peers. Their colleagues listen to them and seek out their opinion when making decisions.
Engage positive influencers to help. Can they aid in designing the change or articulating the vision? Perhaps one can write a blog post or article. Another might serve as a trainer. Along the way they can help you understand how employees are reacting to the change and alert you to problems. They can often convince reluctant colleagues to support the change.
Also keep an eye on negative influencers who could undermine your efforts. Find out what drives their fear. Often just feeling seen, heard, and understood is enough for someone to shift their focus to the positive possibilities of a change they face.
An article in the Harvard Business Review goes into this element in more detail. It notes, “Most successful transformations have one thing in common: Change is driven through empowerment, not mandated from the top.”
Training and Tools
When you ask employees to change how they work, you need to provide the necessary tools and training. If you’re implementing new technology, you need to train every employee who will need to use it. You need to provide experiential training and follow-on coaching, not a cursory overview. If you are asking people to carry out tasks from home, they will need the necessary equipment. Consider ways you can help them evaluate those choices and obtain what they need.
You can successfully manage this. I am cheering you and your team on!
All my best,