While there are hardly any organizations that can avoid change and remain successful in their mission, their organizational culture can promote or detract from the success of new initiatives.
The changes we think of when we think of change management relate to people much more than to things. Changes that affect people may include organizational structure, processes, priorities, and organizational culture. Adoption of computer software can also force changes because it embodies new business processes.
Change is painful for many people and organizations for legitimate reasons. Change introduces risk that the new way will be worse rather than better, and the organization may suffer a setback. The unknown often creates more anxiety than the risks or changes themselves once they are fully revealer. Changes may involve firing people or moving them to roles that they find less desirable.
To become a more adaptable and flexible organization, you should consider not only what is needed to implement the short-term change at hand but also what changes will make future change less painful.
Here are some tips from the field on implementing change and improving your organization’s culture.
- Act with integrity. Behaving with integrity means being honest with people and acting in accordance with the values and moral principles of your organization.
- Share the goals and ensure everyone understands them. This will keep everyone focused. Tie the goals to your mission.
- Multi-level representation. Include leadership in the process so all levels of the organization are represented.
- Encourage knowledge sharing amongst the team. This will help employees to implement and adapt to change faster.
- Treat people as you would like to be treated. When you ask someone to change, consider how you would feel if you were on the receiving end. Would you understand the context and the motivation? What communication method would you prefer?
- Acknowledge feelings. Change means leaving things behind, and people may mourn the loss of the past. Pay attention to these feelings and communicate why the change will produce a net benefit.
- Communicate openly. Create transparency so everyone knows what change initiatives are underway. Communication requires listening so create feedback mechanisms for groups and one-on-one communication.
- Align change with individual motivation. If you ask people to do things that are against their best interest you are fighting an uphill battle to implement a change. You may need to alter incentives to make them match the initiative. The simplest example is that salespeople will normally behave according to their sales commission results. The same principle applies to everyone, not just in terms of compensation but also in terms of recognition.
- Set an example for others. People look to leaders to see how they should behave, so make sure that your behavior is consistent with your message.
- Celebrate success. Don’t forget to take a victory lap. Give credit to all the hard work by everyone that goes into change initiatives.
To become a more adaptable and flexible organization, you should consider not only what is needed to implement the short-term change at hand but also what changes will make future change less painful. You may need to adjust your change initiative in mid-course if it is taking you in the wrong direction.
The flexibility of the organization cannot be achieved without the adaptiveness of individuals. Training and career development opportunities can help people adapt to new conditions more quickly. This could mean functional cross training or transfers of people from one part of the organization to another as part of their career advancement.