“How can I drive organizational change in my organization?” Is this a question you’ve wrestled within your organization?
Many leaders have. After all, driving organizational change is hard. Change management always has been. A few years ago, Harvard Business Review (HBR) ran an article stating that, since the 1970s, failure rates for change projects have stayed consistent at sixty to seventy percent.
Defining Organizational Change and Change Management
Organizational change typically happens in response to, or as a result of, internal or external pressures. These pressures could relate to, for example, operational methods, technologies, business models, or go-to-market strategies. Organizational change reflects a major effort to create, add, redesign, modify, streamline, replace or eliminate those things that can significantly impact an organization’s ability to thrive or even survive.
Change management is, simply put, the people side of change — how to focus, equip, coach, support, and inspire people so they make decisions and take actions aligned with your objectives. And that you achieve desired business outcomes as a result. A comprehensive and structured approach to change management is critical to ensuring a beneficial transition from the old to the new, while mitigating the negative effects of disruption.
Three Ways to Help Drive Organizational Change
#1: Overcommunicate Why Your Organization Must Change
Employees are obsessed with the “why” questions – Why don’t we just keep doing what we’re doing? Why do we have to change? Why are we changing to this and not that? Why here? Why now? Why me? Overcommunicating why the organization must change is at the heart of change management. Answering why provides meaning. When you effectively communicate the why, employees are more likely to see the need for change, find ways to contribute, and add value during the change. Of course, they also need to understand what is changing, how, how it affects them, and how they will be supported throughout the change. Yet none of that matters unless they embrace the why.
You want to be careful not to underestimate the volume and frequency of communications required to support organizational change. As stated in an HBR article, one of the main reasons change initiatives fail is “under communicating the vision by a factor of ten.”
#2: Plan For Both The People Side and The Technical Side of Organizational Change
When you’re planning for organizational change, do you spend more time preparing for the technical side or the people side of change? Let me guess – the technical side? When things fail, do they fail more often because of the technical side or the people side? It’s probably the people side. That’s the truism of change. We plan for the technical side, but it fails because of the people side.
Here are five critical elements that must be consistently aligned to effectively manage the people side of change:
- Have you aligned their hearts and heads with the desired organizational change? Are they clear on the overarching purpose, how that translates into organizational goals, and what is expected of them as an individual?
- Have you equipped them to succeed or set them up to fail? Do they have sufficient knowledge, skills, resources, and authority?
- Have you coached them to change? That means continually providing feedback, guidance, reinforcement and accountability.
- Have you designed your organization with the right processes, policies, structure and infrastructure to support them in changing?
- Finally, do you simply value people as individuals by demonstrating respect, trust, and caring. Do they feel good about themselves because of their contribution to the organizational change?
#3. Ask Your People, “How Could This Fail?”
Before you start down the path of organizational change, there’s one question you need to ask everyone: “How could this fail?” You don’t want to make your big kickoff announcement and have everyone nod their heads in front of you, only to have them go away saying, “Pffft, that will never happen!”
Encourage people to tell you how the proposed organizational change could fail. Thank them for their input and their openness. Even if you disagree, don’t make them wrong. Ask them why they feel the way they do, why they believe what they believe, and what they think should be done to overcome the potential causes of failure.
Once you have this information, you can take steps to prevent failure. Or, you’ll be able to anticipate if failure is likely to occur. And if the organizational change is starting to fail, then you can respond quickly.
Plan for success, but also plan to avoid failure.
NOW, TAKE 90 SECONDS …
Reflect on how this applies to your organization and to the organizational changes you are going through. And record the one thing you will do to make it happen!
Make it Happen.