Have you been in an organization that has been “treading water” for the last few years? Now that we see the economy starting to pick up many organizations will need to change parts of the business or processes that they have neglected. This will result in new projects or new programs and the need to manage the organizational change inherent in these efforts.
Here are a few absolute truths about organizational change:
- Change is inevitable
- Managed change is better than chaotic change
- Change is about people
- There is no magic bullet
Organizations choose to change for many reasons. However, the reasons usually boil down to money. More customers, better products, great efficiency, improving employee retention or empowerment are all laudable goals that in the final analysis are about securing organizational success – which in turn is about money. As a program manager, project leader or employee, if you want your organization to succeed, you must be willing to adapt and support organizational change.
Common Organizational Change Triggers
Organizational change is required when there is a significant shift in the economic environment in which a company exists such as a major recession, a new player in your market sandbox or the emergence of a disruptive technology. New senior managers may choose to redirect departments, begin new projects or cancel existing ones. The culture evolves away from the status quo.
Not as dramatic as the above instances, another organizational change that needs effective management involves change in the organization’s technical infrastructure. With some frequency, companies seek to establish new ways to collect and organize project and program data, integrate new communication techniques and knowledge management strategies or create a Project Management Office to manage resources and quality across the organization.
Why People Resist Change
As I mentioned at the beginning, organizational change is about people. No matter how valid the reasons for change may be, only a small percentage of those affected will sign on and support the change just because management says to do so. According to Michael Hammer, author of Reengineering the Corporation, 60 to 75 percent of all restructuring fails because of the human dimension.
People resist chance. Why? Peter Barron Stark Companies offers 10 reasons people resist change. I have selected some key ones that resonate with my experience as a change agent:
- People are creatures of habit. Asking people to change moves them out of their comfort zone.
- Fear of failure
- No obvious need. If employees do not see the big picture, the need for change – which is inconvenient and requires extra effort – may not be believed. “My job is going okay now, why change?”
- Fear that the new way may not be better
- Fear of the unknown
Strategies for Successfully Managing Organizational Change
Organizational change management is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. Done well, it helps empower employees to accept and embrace changes in their current business environment. There are at least seven reasons why you should apply change management to ensure that the change resulting from the implementation of a new system is managed proactively and with care. As I said, managed changed beats chaotic change, every time!
- Do your homework. Think about or brainstorm about the impact the change may have on your customers, internal business processes, and current systems for employee rewards, assignments and recognition as well as any required changes in structure, facilities to support services.
- Clearly define the vision of change and the scope. What will change; how the change will positively affect the organization and what are the success criteria. What is the schedule of activities?
- Build a strong change management team with diverse skills and excellent abilities to communicate, motivate and lead. Create a set of talking points and prep the change management team, so everyone is singing the same song.
- (I am taking this one straight out of a page on Silver Bear Group’s web site on EASE™ Change Management Toolkit) — Unless your new system scope is quite small, it probably will impact multiple parts and/or levels of the organization. The broader the impact is, the higher the risk for failure. Most implementation failures are attributed to organizational issues that trigger “antibodies” that attack and kill the project. Organizational aspects you should consider as you determine the potential system impact include: job roles and responsibilities, organizational structure, policies and procedures, HR, cultural acceptance to change (i.e., ongoing learning), and the success or failure of previous change initiatives.
- Prepare for resistance by understanding why people resist change and counter with information and support.
- Start small, but maintain momentum with information updates and gradual extension of the changes into the organization.
- Communication early and often. Keep the change in the forefront of messages, presentations and conversations.
Here are a couple more resources that are useful:
The Biggest Mistakes in Managing Change
by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.
Business Balls: Change Management
“Teaching the Elephant to Dance”
by James A. Belasco, Ph.D.