The Secret of Organizational Change Management

In the 2014 summer version of Strategy + Business magazine, there was an article entitled “10 Principles of Leading Change Management.”  This article ties nicely into one of my previous blog posts “The Protean Corporation” that was focused on what corporations need to do to deal with the continuous and explosive change that they are faced with everyday. That blog post was focused on the organizational structure and culture required for our changing environment while this post is focused on rolling out change within the organization itself.

The 10 guiding principles for change as described in the article are summarized below (with some of my commentary added);

1) Lead with the culture – when building your strategy for rolling out the change, take into account your organizations vision, mission, values and overall culture. Does the change align with the vision, mission, values and culture? How can you structure or position the change to leverage these things and make it easier for the organization to accept and embrace the change?

2) Start at the top – the change process has to be solidly embraced at the top levels of the organization before it is rolled out to “the masses”. Employees will know very quickly if the top levels of the organization do not truly support the change. Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s statement that “your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” If the leadership of the organization has bought into the change and are modeling it in their behavior then the change process for the organization will be much smoother.

3) Involve every layer – wherever possible, involve midlevel management when preparing to rollout change. This level of management may have insights that top leaders don’t have that may make or break the change process. This also gets early buy in by mid level managers which will speed the change process and help ensure its success. This obviously is much easier if you focus on casting the organizations vision clearly at each level.

4) Make the rational and emotional case together – don’t explain the change to the organization in an analytical way with just facts and figures. Explain to everyone why the change is necessary, what the benefits to the change are, what it means to each person and how they can contribute.

5) Act your way into new thinking – define how you need everyone in the organization to act and think in order for the change to take place. Once that is done, have every leader in the organization model this behavior at all times.

6) Engage, engage, engage – or better stated, communicate, communicate, communicate. Use as many forms of communication as possible to communicate the change program and its status and communicate continuously. Keep the change front and center and show progress towards the end goal. Use tools like the ones I wrote about in “How to Get the Pulse of Your Organization“.

7) Lead outside the lines – engage the organization’s recognized leaders . . . those people who are not necessarily titled leaders but are recognized by staff as leaders. Engage these leaders and get the onside as soon as possible in the change process.

8) Leverage formal solutions – redesign your business systems to support the change that is being implemented. If your business systems, training, processes and tools don’t support the change that is being rolled out then it will probably fail.

9) Leverage informal solutions – a change that fundamentally affects culture requires some extra attention. For example; if the organizational change involves switching from a cost conscious mode of operation to a quality first operation, some serious culture shift is required before that change will be successful.

10) Assess and adapt – measure the success of the change program and adjust and adapt it based on the current level of adoption. This involves establishing some key metrics that indicate the success of the initiative. Once the metrics are established, they must be measured and monitored. Based on the metric scores, the change program can be tweaked to improve adoption as the organization moves towards completing the change.

Following these 10 steps when rolling out changes in your organization will help to reduce the pain of the change process and will improve overall adoption of the changes.

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F Kennedy

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