Ten Essentials To Ensure Organizational Change Works
How to make sure that your organization has the framework for change
Organizations that are in the throes of change must make sure that the framework for change is in place before charging forward. Too often, goals and strategies are defined but there is little attention to whether the organizational culture is ready and primed for the changes. Staff then gets frustrated or just ignores the change efforts completely. Here are the ten essentials elements that are critical for organizational change to be successful:
- There is a solid foundation for change. This requires clear and honest answers to the questions of “Why is this change necessary?” “What is at stake if we don’t change or are unsuccessful in our attempts?” And “Where are we going?” Employees are much more likely to embrace change if they have some idea why they are doing it. The future vision should be clear and repeatable.
- Communication is both excessive and effective. Communication during a major change must be frequent, timely and consistent, involving face-to-face contact between immediate bosses and their direct reports, rather than one-way e-mails, top-down announcements or long periods without any information. A handy rule of thumb is to take communication efforts and multiply by ten. Communication also has to be in multiple forms including using technology to emphasize key messages. People tend to remember information in “sound bites,” so it is important to have some catch phrases that outline the goals of the changes.
- Attention is given to transition management. A detailed transition plan supplements the strategic and change plans and includes ways of helping people let go of the old ways, get through and capitalize on the chaos and confusion, and ensure the new way becomes fully integrated throughout the organization. The transition plan should include tentative timeframes and expectations.
- Middle and lower management levels are truly engaged. Middle manager, team leaders and front-line supervisors are the most crucial levels to have fully committed and acting on their responsibilities to ensure the success of the change. Ideally, they are involved in planning the action steps that include their areas of responsibility.
- Senior leaders are pulling together. All members of the senior executive group are visibly supporting the change and moving in the same direction in a clearly united front throughout the organization. The language of change should be clear and consistent and repeated in every message to the organization.
- No “old guard” factor exists. The “old guard” may be either specific groups or key individuals that have a vested interest in keeping things as they were, and they need help to get on board with the change or be dealt with directly, as early in the process as possible. Remember, often the most dedicated employees may initially resist change. That is because they have devoted time and energy to the present reality. They need to be allowed to verbalize their concerns so they can move on.
- The change plan is clear and understandable. An effective change plan must clearly spell out time-lines, accountabilities, budgets, resources required, progress reports, feedback loops, etc. so that everyone in the organization trusts that there really is a good plan in place for the change. The plan has to be reinforced so it is not viewed as simply another “flavor of the month.”
- People know what is expected of them. There is a clear and definite link between the changes at the organizational level and what each person in the organization needs to do at the individual level to make the change successful. The language of change should be consistent in job descriptions and performance reviews. Ongoing assessment and feedback should be utilized so everyone knows that they are on the right track.
- The changes are coordinated and prioritized. When there are a number of changes happening at the same time throughout the organization, it is critical they are grouped together and prioritized so they fit together in a coherent pattern and everyone knows what change is urgent this week.
- Old habits are not getting in the way. The organization is very intentional about not making the same kind of mistakes it has with past unsuccessful changes that are based on their collective “culture,” “character” or “the way we do things around here.”
Effective leaders know that the readiness of the culture to embrace change is just as important as the vision and strategic plan. They also know that there are always some glitches and stumbling blocks in managing change