Implementing Strategies for Organizational Change Management
One reliable thing about the business world is it’s constantly in flux. Organizational leaders must be adaptable and know how to implement changes affecting their operations, products, and employees, often with limited time. This flexibility is what keeps them and their organization competitive.
Regardless of the reason for the change, whether it’s related to new technologies, regulations, or human resources, change has implications for your employees. It doesn’t matter if it’s organization-wide or restricted to one team; people often struggle to embrace and resist change. Many assume change will lead to staffing cuts, pay reductions, or team restructuring that will negatively impact them.
A good leader understands how change affects your people and mitigates the fallout. Losing employees because of an organizational change is costly and disruptive. You must set the tone and develop a change management strategy to set you and your team up for success. It’s your responsibility to illustrate to your team what’s coming, prepare them as effectively as possible, and put them in a position to succeed.
This article will define change management, discuss how to choose the best strategy for your organization, provide general best practices, and more.
On this Page:
- What is Organizational Change Management?
- Choosing Organizational Change Management Strategies
- Benefits of Organizational Change Management
What is Organizational Change Management?
Change management is pragmatically implementing new methods and systems within an organization. External conditions in a business environment, such as legislation, technological advancements, competitor maneuvers, or economic fluctuations, influence the need to internally establish and apply new tools, procedures, resources, operations, or structures. Operational change management focuses on defining these business needs and the tasks required to enact specific changes within an organization.
Simply put, the purpose of change management is to implement new business processes, tools, strategies, etc., while mitigating adverse outcomes. Doing this requires prioritizing the people most impacted by significant organizational change. Change initiatives fail if personnel do not believe in or refuse to engage with the change.
Successfully implementing change requires leaders to go beyond simple project management and take an authentic leadership approach. Leaders make change easier when they engage employees in the transition. Through proactive change management communication, leaders create a desire to change across the workforce.
All these organizational changes are different, and each needs a different strategy to drive change efforts in the right direction. Regardless of the type of change, there are a few things you need to plan to make your organizational change efforts a success.
Choosing Organizational Change Management Strategies
Leaders can manage and enact change in many ways, but almost all strategies require planning and emphasizing transparent and honest communication with employees. A change management strategy must encompass all the moving parts, including the stakeholders, resources, timeline, budget, communication plan, workflows, and success metrics. Employee buy-in and participation are essential to any change management strategy.
There are a few different types of change management, and each type is best suited to a particular use case or situation. These strategies can be adapted and deployed depending on an organization’s specific needs. The four types of change management are as follows:
Anticipatory change management is appropriate for planning changes you know are on the horizon, such as an executive team member planning their retirement or exit. This approach allows a project manager to establish plans ahead of time.
Reactive change management is necessary for response to an unexpected event, such as a crisis. This situation requires project managers to improvise as there is limited planning time. Although this form of change management is not ideal, it is not always avoidable.
Incremental change management refers to slowly introducing changes over a prolonged period and making minor alterations that won’t derail an entire project.
Strategic change management typically has a more profound impact on a company. Project management of this type is often a response to a significant corporate shift, such as introducing new technology or product type.
Benefits of Organizational Change Management
Different situations and initiatives call for different types of change management, as we just learned. Still, change management is an essential organizational capability and is more effective when implementing a standard approach. The common thread is organizations are more likely to succeed when they plan change initiatives proactively and engage employees before, during, and after the change.
Here are a few benefits of using change management strategies:
- Future-proofing for change: Establishing a common approach to managing change is necessary to remain competitive in today’s business landscape. It allows your business to overcome future changes in your organization or industry.
- Reduced risk: Many organizations have suffered from poorly managed change efforts. Being strategic delivers better results and mitigates stress and confusion among employees.
- Greater effectiveness: You will get better results when you have an organized strategy in place. By establishing strong change management capabilities, you will be more successful in your projects.
Best Practices of Organizational Change Management
The most common reasons why change management procedures fail is poor communication. Clear communication channels throughout the organization are critical to delivering on change, and leaders must be proactive and encourage employees to express their concerns, opinions, and excitement at every step. To give yourself the best chance of completing a change management effort, adhere to the following practices:
Define the change and its goals: To guarantee a plan is successful, you need to be able to articulate the goal and desired outcome of a change management effort. Understanding the organizational objectives ensures the transition will deliver value to the enterprise.
Build a change management plan: Before you bring the proposed change to your team, make sure you have a roadmap outlining when, how, and why the change is taking place. To ensure proper execution, you should design this plan around your team’s strengths and weaknesses and detail the tasks required to complete the project within the given timeline. This plan should include details for new or changing responsibilities for anyone affected.
Be transparent and honest: Many change management projects foretell significant organizational transformations. It can be a challenging experience for employees and require some to adapt to new responsibilities or move away from preferred ways of working. A direct and open approach is the best way to maintain their trust and optimism.
Emphasize communication: Keep the lines of communication open between you and your employees. Stay open and available to answer questions, hold team meetings, and invite team members to come to see you and talk through their concerns or thoughts in a neutral atmosphere.
Offer training: Because employees often get used to business processes and tools, they are often reluctant to embrace new ones. As you implement change, offer them adequate training to gain the skills and confidence they need to succeed under the latest iteration.
Encourage participation: It is demoralizing to feel you don’t have a voice when a change impacts your job. While it may not always be possible, soliciting feedback from your employees and inviting them to share their opinion is a great way to obtain different perspectives and uncover the unintended implications of your change management initiative.
Measure success: Implementing change can be so much work it’s sometimes easy to overlook whether it worked. As you roll out change, you need to define your success metrics and secure the data necessary to prove whether or not you met your goals. For example, if you are leading a company-wide rollout of new technology, send out a survey to determine how many employees use it. You should constantly measure against your benchmarks to know if your project is on track.
Change is an inevitable part of doing business, but it is far from the easiest. Any change management process will fail without the support of people. Remember, while you might understand the value of change management, you will not get far without the backing of your team. Any change management strategy requires embracing a leadership role, getting the buy-in of those reporting to you, and proactively engaging them throughout the process.
Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, CSM, PMI-PBA, BRMP is the Director of Project Management for Watermark Learning. Andrea is an experienced trainer, facilitator, speaker, and project manager, with over 25 years of business experience. Andrea oversees certification and skills development curriculum in project management, business analysis, and leadership. She has been a speaker at IIBA® and PMI® conferences and is an active volunteer. She enjoys practicing what she teaches and has a steady stream of projects that she manages. Andrea is highly committed to partnering with her clients through projects, consulting, and training, and seeks to make every engagement enjoyable as well as valuable.