Today’s business leaders are expected to keep up with a flurry of new initiatives – driven by changing competition, new regulations, advances in technology or the need for greater efficiencies.

While many have their fingers on the pulse of these changes, they underestimate the time and effort it takes to make sure their employees change alongside (and in support of) the organization.  How well is your organization keeping pace?

Today’s business leaders are expected to keep up with a flurry of new initiatives – driven by changing competition, new regulations, advances in technology or the need for greater efficiencies. While many have their fingers on the pulse of these changes, they underestimate the time and effort it takes to make sure their employees change alongside (and in support of) the organization.  How well is your organization keeping pace?

Define the desired change.  Don’t assume everyone is working from the same understanding and towards the same goals.

One word can have numerous meanings, the same way that a vision can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

Develop a clear vision for the future state and align leadership to the future state vision – it will go a long way towards helping teams adjust.  Make sure you communicate this vision and specific desired outcomes early and often.  Determine an actionable plan to build adoption and integration. Lastly, stay focused on how to make business changes that are sustainable. Work with managers and supervisors to define the changes necessary to achieve desired outcomes and set a realistic timeline for realization.

After you define, refine. There’s no better way to champion and drive change than by listening to feedback and incorporating it.

No organization is able to change through full consensus or by asking permission to undertake a new business platform or change in leadership structure.  But, by starting communication early and listening to feedback from system users and long-tenured employees, savvy business leaders can start building engagement early. It is critical that employees believe they have a voice and understand the why, not just the how, behind a desired change or outcome. Be careful to understand both the macro and micro impacts of change.

There are several best practices to communicate and build engagement around a change initiative:

  • Build the need for change.  Communicate why a change is important – include business, customer and cultural benefits.
  • Measure and communicate progress.  Share and celebrate “quick wins” and key milestones.  This helps build momentum and confidence that the change is achievable.
  • Ensure visible and consistent leadership engagement.  Active sponsorship shows commitment to the change and keeps focus on key activities and overall engagement.
  • Build support and commitment using a change network.  Formalize a role for change agents that helps build an understanding of specific impacts and creates two-way communications between a project team and each stakeholder group.  
  • Establish a support structure for continuous improvement.  Understand that change management efforts need to continue past implementation to help ongoing learning and integration.

Forget change for change’s sake. Focus on sustainable integration.  

When implementing a new large-scale business platform or undergoing transformational change, the biggest mistake we see companies make is viewing change management as a one-time project that ends with “implementation.” Training and communication occur immediately pre- and post-implementation but without an ongoing focus on integration, adoption can take a nosedive.

Successful organizational change focuses on sustainable integration. So, even if you hire a third party to help with implementation, project management and change management, it is critical to identify internal resources to champion change and maintain efforts to ensure continuous improvement and realization of desired outcomes. Many organizations now employ change management individuals or teams. But, just because an employee doesn’t have a change management title, doesn’t mean he or she can’t help champion change within the organization.

Reduce business disruption. But don’t fool yourself into believing there won’t be any.

Walk the halls of any organization of any size or industry and you won’t be surprised to hear phrases like “this is the way we’ve always done things.” We are all accustomed to our ways and all transformation initiatives will cause some “noise.”  What’s more, organizations are more connected than ever before. Change in one area of the business most likely impacts several other areas of the business, either directly or indirectly.

Understand that implementation is only the beginning of change management.  True integration and sustainability of changes requires a progressive approach and ongoing focus.  Account for a learning curve and assume most changes will occur through “evolution” versus “revolution.”  Once you make a change, stick with it. Continue to communicate and develop the needed skills and behaviors.  Most of all, incent the right behaviors and positively reinforce those who adapt well to the change.

Staying nimble is the key to success

Organizations that are nimble and adaptable to changing business conditions are those poised for success. Establishing the right organizational change management framework is critical to the longevity of today’s businesses. What was once viewed as a “nice to have” part of a project or program is now table stakes for ensuring sustainable adoption and the ability to achieve the return on investment you are seeking.  

For more information on how to establish an organizational change management framework in your organization or in support of a transformational initiative, please contact Michael Hughes.