Too often organizations tend to jump into a change initiative without doing upfront planning for the change. I have heard the following from clients,
And this is just a small sampling of some comments regarding change.
However, if we follow a simple process, we can more effectively and successfully launch organizational change initiatives.
Prior to launching an organizational change initiative, prepare for the change to occur. This enables you to gain support for the change and increase your chances of successful implementation of the change. Additionally, you often find that when sharing information on the change initiative with others, you may find out additional information that would impact the change initiative and/or enable for a more successful change initiative.
What is the impact of this change (who does it affect?) Is it just one department, workgroup? A division within the company or multiple division? Is it organization-wide? The larger the impact of the change, the riskier the change is; therefore requiring more upfront planning.
How are things currently in the organization? Is morale high? Are employees engaged? Are there other change efforts happening that will impact how this change will be received? How effectively and successfully have past change initiatives been implemented? Is there usually resistance to change?
If there is much happening currently in the organization, it may be difficult to undertake the change initiative now. Of course there are situations where the change must happen and it must happen now. In such cases, acknowledging that there is much happening and that it will not be easy to manage one more initiative, but that there is a plan to do so, helps to let employees know you empathize and understand the situation and are committed to helping them get through it.
This is the start of socializing – or getting buy-in – for the change initiative. The more people you get on board and comfortable early on, the easier your change management project overall.
In this first phase, determine who needs to be involved in planning the change initiative. For a cross-functional change initiative, be sure that each function is represented on the project team. You want a diversity of people on your planning team. Diversity enables for more creative problem solving and decision making. The more diversity on the team, the more likely you will successfully implement your change.
Once you have moved forward and launched the organizational change initiative, you need to continue to socialize the initiative to get the project kicked off effectively.
First, set up a communication plan to share with all stakeholders and inviting stakeholders to kick off meetings to get them used to the upcoming change and engaged in the initiative (share the communication plan at the kick off meetings.) Use a variety of ways (including meetings) to communicate with stakeholders (especially in a larger organization or when there are shifts) to ensure you capture as many stakeholders as possible and get them engaged around the change initiative. For example, I may set up the following types of meetings/communications to initially communicate the change initiative to employees within the organization:
The communication plan should include a plan for regular communications with stakeholders as the change initiative progresses along with forums to ask questions and get clarification, such as through monthly lunch and learns, coffee sessions or via a portal.
Include in your communication plan a high-level schedule for the initiative, such as when training will occur, when the change will be rolled out and other key details. This enables all employees to feel a part of the initiative and to understand what will be done to support them so they can be successful working within the changed environment.
Your very first communication will focus on the benefits of the change to both the organization and the individual employees, along with the risk of not changing. You cannot effectively launch this initial communication until you understand your audience and their perceptions around change. You will need to craft your early communications about the change initiative to get employees excited and engaged early on in the process.
These initial communications are absolutely essential to the success of the organizational change initiative. You must get employees comfortable and on board with the change early enough. Spend the time on these initial and follow up communications prior to moving forward with getting started on the change project. These early interactions with stakeholders will enable you to better shape the work of the change initiative.
During this phase, it is essential to gather, evaluate and address feedback you receive on the change initiative. This may be done through small group meetings, online surveys, informal “water cooler” conversations, or through one-on-one conversations with those impacted by the change.
During this phase, we also want to continue to engage our stakeholders through celebrating early success and regularly “checking in” with stakeholders to ensure they are still feeling positive and are engaged about the change.
We may be making adjustments to the change initiative as we roll it out based on feedback received and evaluating what works well and what does not.
When we transfer the change to those who will own it or maintain it moving forward, it is essential that we have trained them. It is also important to check in with them regularly to evaluate the change and ensure that it is successful for them. Don’t simply transfer the change to operations/maintenance and walk away assuming your work is done. You must regularly check in to reinforce the change and ensure it is successful over the long term.
Once you have transferred the change project to those individuals who will be owning (utilizing, managing, operating, and/or maintaining) the change moving forward, do the following:
Evaluate the entire change initiative
Get the group together who worked on the change initiative, along with key stakeholders, and evaluate the initiative. Ask the following 3 simple questions:
You want to capture these lessons learned to understand what might be done on future change projects to ensure they are successful. When change initiatives are successful, people are more apt to adapt to change more easily. They are confident in the change process overall.
Develop a plan to maintain the change
Have a plan in place to evaluate the change over time. This might be on a 6 month, 9 month and 12 month basis initially; and then annually or bi-annually after that. As with any process within an organization, regular evaluation is essential to ensure the process still meets the needs of the organization. As organizations change – they grow, new products and services are launched, new employees come on board, the client base grows, etc. – it is essential to evaluate processes to ensure that they are still beneficial, effective and help support the organization.
As goals and objectives of the organization change over time, processes must change to ensure the organization can meet those goals and objectives.
This process for leading a change initiative increases the likelihood of engaging individuals within the organization in the change. Keep in mind that change impacts everyone in some way. It is essential to understand that change is impactful and appreciate how it affects the individuals within the organization. It doesn’t matter if you believe it is a simple “no brainer” change initiative, others may not feel the same way. When we take the time to engage the organization in the change, and keep them engaged, we increase the likelihood of success and make future change initiatives a bit easier to manage overall.
Gina Abudi, President of Abudi Consulting Group, LLC works with mid-size to large, global organizations to lead and support transformational change initiatives. As part of her work, Gina also workshops to help clients both lead change initiatives and ensure their employees are positioned to effectively support those initiatives. Contact Abudi Consulting Group today to learn how we can help you on your next change initiative.