A Change is Coming: Do You Know What’s Involved?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Change is inevitable; we all know this.  But managing change in your organization is vital to a successful outcome.  Throwing caution to the wind and letting the pieces fall where they may is really no way to “change” an organization.  The result is usually unhappy employees, low morale, reduced productivity, and essentially, no effective change has taken place.

So how do you prevent this adverse outcome?  By understanding the change process so you can effectively implement interventions that are critical to ensuring a successful change outcome.

Following are the basic principles involved in organizational change.  This is not intended to be step-by-step guide.  Instead it is a primer for understanding at a high-level what’s involved the change process.

Plan.  First understand that most everyone needs to know something.  Most organizations assume that only the people directly affected by the change need to know what’s going on.  What many don’t realize is that others in the organization (and even outside the organization) may be impacted for any number of reasons.  This is why a lot of attention needs to be given to planning the change.  Following is a basic view of what’s involved in the planning stage.  Realize that each of them carry within it their own set of principles, tasks, and best practices.  You need to:

  • identify groups of people who will be impacted in any way (big or small),
  • determine how they are impacted and to what degree,
  • assess their varying needs and resistances,
  • identify strategies to help each group through the change, and
  • devise an action plan outlining the various communications and educational interventions necessary at all levels.   (Note:  Interventions are any tactic used during a change for anything such as gaining buy-in, mentally preparing individuals, and training individuals on new processes.)


Implement.  Using your action plan, implement your interventions to coincide with the change events.  Throughout the implementation, be sure to take periodic pulses to ensure the change is in fact happening and that your people are being taken care of.

Sustain.  Remember that it is natural to fall back into old habits.  That said, it is important to monitor the change even after the implementation.  Take care in providing messages and showing actions that continue to support the change that took place.  I personally believe that a truly successful change is one where behaviors are not only changed, but sustained over a long period of time.  That period of time depends on the change, but when the “new way” becomes accepted as the “current way,” that’s a pretty good indication that the change is being sustained.

While this might seem manageable, there is a lot of work to be done even for seemingly small changes and it can be very overwhelming.  To overcome this, and to ensure a successful change, you might consider hiring a consultant who is experience in organizational change.  Consultants who do this for a living can bring an “outsider” perspective to better assist in the change.  They have an arsenal of proven strategies and tools that will get your organization through the change.

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