Organizations constantly go through a development process to encourage growth. This development takes place through a range of smaller changes, and managing these is vital to the success of your enterprise. Instead of being caught up in each change, organizational change management ensures the changes made will fall in line with the goals and strategy of your business.
Organizational Development vs. Organizational Change
Let's start by clearly defining organizational development as compared to organizational change. Organizational development is a method companies use to make systemic changes. According to the Academy to Innovate HR, it is “a critical and science-based process that helps organizations build their capacity to change and achieve greater effectiveness by developing, improving, and reinforcing strategies, structures, and processes.”
By comparison, organizational change falls within this development process. It includes a wide range of specialties, departments, and tasks needed to implement the change process. It's the individual projects that fall under the developmental goals of the company. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused universities to suspend in-person courses, they undertook significant organizational change to shift all courses to a distance-learning format. This kind of change involved many moving parts to ensure the change was implemented effectively.
So where does organizational change management come into play? There are many change management examples, both good and bad. An organizational change approach that doesn't consider the company's goals may be disruptive. It may not implement change in an efficient, effective, or growth-focused manner. On the other hand, an approach that manages change aligned with the company's strategy is good organizational change management. It can effectively move the company's goals and strategy forward while minimizing disruption to the company.
What Does Successful Organizational Change Look Like?
Several specific steps need to be followed to ensure organizational change in a timely, efficient, and effective manner. Though they're simple, failing to take them into consideration can make the difference between success and failure in your ventures.
Identify Problem or Need
Organizational change comes about because of a need or problem that isn't being addressed by the assets in place. Whether it's a labor-intensive workflow, a wasteful quality production problem, or too few workers to keep your operations running smoothly, identifying the problem is vital to determining the course to take going forward.
Determine Type of Change Needed
The next aspect you'll need to consider when developing solid organizational change management models includes figuring out what type of change is needed. Do you need more people or do you need to add technology so that your current people can do more? Is your current strategy working for your marketing plan, or do you need to update it? Are there other options available that will help with your current workflow crisis? This step includes investigating many options so that you can be certain that you're settling on the right one for your overall organizational development strategy.
Communicate Impact of Change
Part of the process of successfully implementing organizational change is communicating both the expected and less likely outcomes of the change. Will hours be reduced? Will roles and responsibilities change? Will staff need more training? By communicating the impact of the change with both management and the company, you may reduce the reluctance to embrace the change. You'll give everyone time to become accustomed to the idea and make their own plans around it. You may even receive feedback about how to better strategize and implement the plan for change.
Gain Alignment and Support from Leadership
If your leadership and management team members feel they can't align with the changes you're proposing, there's little you can do to move your project forward. But if you can gain support from your leadership team, you can gain momentum to move forward with less resistance. Take the time to explain why the change is needed. Describe the expected impact it will have on your company. Discuss the early concepts of how the problem or need could be met, to help get and keep these key players on board.
Develop Strategy and Implementation Plan
Whether the change is large or small, it's always worth working through the steps to develop a strategy for making the change and a plan for implementing it. Take the time to go through the entire process and determine what systems, assets, and workers may be involved. Work with the individuals who will be affected so that you can develop a plan that meets everyone's needs. At the same time, some people are reluctant to change and may resist the process. Be prepared to work through objections while listening carefully to see whether these individuals have a valid point.
Communicate the Plan
Though you may have already communicated the problem or issue itself, it's different once you've developed a solid plan of action. At this point, the plan must be communicated, including the expected impacts, the departments that will be involved in the change, how it will be carried out, and the dates that specific benchmarks will be reached. This allows employees to move forward in a way that works well with your plan.
Empower Employees and Invite Feedback
Change can be difficult for many people. Some of those who will be affected have stronger knowledge of and insight into the systems that may be impacted, so be sure to work with them. Provide paid time for training in a new system. Offer a reward for those who come up with better ideas or find additional issues that may be caused by your plan. This allows you to adapt your plan so that the implementation process will go much more smoothly.
Set Goals and Milestones
To ensure your changes are implemented in a timely manner, set specific dates or general ranges by which the milestones should be reached. It is helpful to provide a reward or incentives for departments that meet those milestones, so staff are encouraged to continue working hard to keep the project moving forward.
Monitor and Measure Progress
Though it's helpful to set milestones to keep the change project on track, you still must regularly monitor and measure your progress. This will help ensure you'll reach those milestones and that any issues that arise are handled quickly. By comparison, waiting until a deadline is looming to check on progress may reveal an unexpected problem and, potentially, significant delays. Staying on top of project progress allows you to be proactive when problems come up so that everything keeps rolling smoothly.
Communicate Progress and Provide Feedback
Communicate progress to the project stakeholders, your leadership, and your management team. If issues arise during the process, provide feedback to develop solutions using a holistic approach. This is preferable to having one member of the organizational change management team making arbitrary decisions that could impact the operation of the entire business.
Successful Organizational Change Examples
Large Tech Company
One of the world's largest tech companies decided to embrace a flexible schedule. This was part of the "new normal" brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though they had already begun to use a few remote workers, the pandemic accelerated the pace of the change and increased such workers. This put a great deal of pressure on the organization during what was already a difficult time. Despite the challenge, the company decided to embrace the flexible workplace, understanding that even after the pandemic has passed, many employees will choose to continue working from home. This decision has been strongly supported by the employees. Many other companies are following suit, vastly changing the way that people work on a daily basis, no matter the health situation of the world.
Major Automotive Manufacturer
An American automotive manufacturer that has been around for decades is strongly focused on organizational change management, led by the company's female chair and CEO. This leadership change shook up the male-dominated industry. Not only is this company working for innovation within the automotive industry, it's also effecting change and innovation in a range of initiatives, working in diversity and social causes to improve business growth through diversity. The company's focus on innovation and managing organizational change has led to outstanding success.
National Insurance Company
With the high number of issues reported by cybersecurity experts, many IT departments are paying attention. One well-known insurance company understood that one of the biggest threats to its digital assets came from within: employees opening emails containing viruses. To keep their people on their toes, the business created a change strategy of self-testing to lower the number of in-house security issues. They accomplished this by sending spoof phishing emails to its own employees. This made the employees more vigilant in their daily activities, and it helped protect the company's digital assets and their customer's information.
Organizational Change Failure Examples
Major Cell Phone Manufacturer
Throughout the world, many people carry miniature computers in their pockets, backpacks, and purses. But one industry leader failed to see the writing on the wall as numerous companies began shifting from flip-phones to smartphones. Though they eventually made the switch, it was entirely too late to take back their market share from the new industry leaders. Once a common household name and the manufacturer of the bulk of cell phones, they're barely a blip on the tech radar now.
National Bookstore Chain
Sometimes keeping your enemies close isn't a good idea, especially when they're an active business competitor. One national brick-and-mortar chain neglected to create their own e-reader. Worse, they decided to outsource developing a website for online and digital book sales through a partnership with one of their biggest, most digitally aligned competitors. In the end, they lost all their brick-and-mortar locations as well.
These change management examples, good or bad, show the importance of having a solid organizational change management team in place to handle important innovations. But how do you get the right team in the right place with the right ideas at the right time?
UMN's course on leading change management can make a big difference in how successful your company can be, as our world goes through digital transformation. Why not take a few minutes to see what the Successfully Lead Enterprise-Wide Change Management course or Organization Development Certificate have to offer you?