8 Steps to Implementing Organizational Change
Change is a word that provokes uneasiness for the majority of people. The definition of change is “to become different, to become altered or modified, to be transformed or converted.”
Since we are creatures of habit, change is a difficult thing for most people. We would all agree that change can sometimes be good – a new job, a marriage, children or a new house are all examples of positive changes for us. So then, why is it so difficult for people to adapt to change at work?
When a change is presented in the workplace to challenge the status quo, employees will inevitable resist it. I worked with a woman years ago who we moved from a small cubicle to a large shared office. The new office was at least twice the work space and had new furniture. We mistakenly thought she would be excited about this change but she was very upset and kicked and screamed her way into the new office. She told us over and over again that she “did not like change.” Fortunately months later, when she was settled in and adjusted, she thanked us for the new work space.
This is a good example of how we all perceive and process things differently and what is exciting for one person may be a major upset for another. We all have the tendency to get comfortable, set in our ways and resist change because it disrupts our fine tuned daily habits.
Research of successful organizations tells us that continually doing things the same way produces the same results and often it requires changing things to help get an organization to the next level. Examples of workplace changes are changes in benefit plans, new workplace safety procedures, an office change or perhaps a new computer software program - the management of change dictates its ability to be successful.
So if the saying is true, “change is constant”, why do so many people resist change? Many times it is fear of not knowing how the change will affect them, and not knowing, makes people feel like they have no control. Organizational leaders are responsible for minimizing the negative impact on employees by managing the change efforts. This is done by communicating as much information as possible in an effort to help people understand the reasons the change is being made. Employees will be less resistant to change if they are communicated with in a timely manner and really understand the reasons for the change.
8 Steps to Change Management Implementation
1. Making a Case for Change
Changes should only be done when there is a data-driven reason for making a change. There are many sources of data that can drive change. It could be product defect rates, customer comment cards, employee satisfaction survey results, customer satisfaction survey results, workplace safety issues, business goals or budgetary pressures. Utilizing available data is the best way to find areas that need improvement.
2. Senior Leadership Support
One of the most important aspects of change management is having senior leader support. It is critical for senior leaders to help communicate the reason for the change and interact with employees through the change implementation. Employees will be less resistant if they see senior level leaders supporting the change process.
3. Communication Plan
The process of change management communication should be systematic and structured. Employees look to their leadership to inform them of changes whether global or area specific. Poor communication fuels the rumor mill which can create resistance to change. Proactive communication about change initiatives help employees feel like they are part of the process and valued.
4. Employee Partners
A major mistake many organizations make is not involving front-line employees in change projects. Whether a change is large or small, the reason behind it needs to be appropriately communicated as well as how the change will impact the way an employee does their job. Employees are the knowledge experts in how work gets done and offer a wealth of information that can help with the planning and implementation of changes. Whether it is looking for ways to reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction or changing a work process, employees can add much needed value to planning the change process.
5. Removing Barriers
For successful change implementation, barriers need to be removed. Barriers can be other departments, poor preparation or training, lack of equipment and supplies or resistant employees. In these situations management is responsible for stepping in to help resolve issues. This may include dealing with resistant employees or removing other obstacles that affect successful implementation. There are occasions when some employees don’t adjust to changes and just need to be moved on.
6. Change Initiative Implementation
The implementation of the change initiative should be put in a timeline that shows the order of the implementation. A well planned timeline will ensure that any new equipment, needed supplies or training takes place before the change is fully implemented. Failing to do so can create frustration for those affected employees. An example of this would be upgrading an employee’s computer software before the employee has gone through the software training. This could create employee frustration as well as a slowdown in work processes.
7. Change Assessment
After a change is implemented, there should be follow-up to see if the change delivered the desired results. Change often exceeds desired results but occasionally a change does not work as planned. When this happens, management should acknowledge what failed and try to make adjustments until target results are achieved.
It is important to acknowledge and celebrate success as changes are made. Celebrating even small changes can help build momentum for bigger changes. These celebration moments help make employees feel engaged and want to participate in the process.
Successful change implementation comes when employees have a good understanding of why a change is needed and are given the opportunity to be part of the planning and implementation of the change.