Organizational change has one trait — it is inevitable. Experience of McKinsey consultants indicates that about 70% of organizations fail when they try to make organizational change. Summarizing my experience in this area, I would like to point out nine ingredients of successful organizational change. If you want your organization to hit those 30% that have successfully implemented their organizational change, then each of the nine ingredients is a must for your success.
Ingredient 1. The Cause for Change
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” This idea is attributed to different authors: Henry Ford, Jessie Potter, Dayle K. Maloney, Cathy Bolger, Tony Robbins and many others. Perhaps, this idea springs to mind to anyone who seriously thought about the need for change. A change both in the life of the individual and in the group of people, that is, in the organization.
There are not so many companies having an answer to one simple question: “Why we do what we do?” If your company is among these lucky ones, than you definitely have the reason.
Ingredient 2. Consentaneous Vision for Change
There should be no competing views on the required changes within your organization. Even one person who deliberately sabotages change can significantly slow down the process of implementing change. But the most dangerous thing is that this person will inevitably attract a certain number of employees to his side. If you allowed it, most likely your organizational change will not take place.
Ingredient 3. Methodology That Suits Your Organization Needs
The field of organizational change has been studied quite well, and quite a lot of practical experience has been accumulated in this area. There are variety of methodologies these days:
- ADKAR® created by Jeff Hiatt;
- Kurt Lewin’s 3 steps model;
- John Kotter’s 8 steps process;
- 7S model by McKinsey;
- And others.
You have to learn them all on your own, as well as the experience of their application in practice. Or you can hire an experienced consultant instead.
Ingredient 4. Specific and Clear Metrics and Plans for Successful Implementation of Organizational Change
- Set up clear goals of your organizational change according to the SMART methodology.
- Make sure that these goals are in line with business goals of your organization.
- Prepare a clear step-by-step Implementation Plan for carrying out organizational change. Specify resources¹ required to complete each step of the plan, as well as the participants in each step and the expected measurable outcome from them.
- Create your Communication Plan. Make sure it includes at least communication channels, key messages, target audience (individuals and groups, business units, departments, etc.), key speakers, and a timeline. Also specify in your Communication Plan how you are going to cope with negative feedback.
- Prepare your Resistance Management Plan. Try to predict what the resistance will be and from where in the organization it will come. Determine in your plan who and how will work with these objections, as well as key factors on which you assess that resistance turned into acceptance.
¹ Money, people, time, technology, information.
Ingredient 5. Indisputable Leader to Drive Change
A common misconception among business owners and top managers is that they are sometimes confident that organizational change management can be delegated to a subordinate or even a third-party consultant. The truth is that without the direct participation of every employee of the organization, including top managers, no change will take place. At the same time, the most influential leader should lead the organizational change (it is almost always the founder of the company, who is at the same time its top manager). His mission is to drive changes, to inspire employees, to communicate success and to sell final vision to all stakeholders.
But do not think that leader must drive changes alone. Leader should identify and organize change contributors (or let’s call them change advocates). These people are sincere believers who will actively participate in organizational change activity and infect others with enthusiasm for change.
Ingredient 6. Individual Outcome of Every Employee Counts
Organizational change outcome is the sum of each employee outcome. If one of the employees has not contributed to the common cause, then either the overall result will be lower than planned, or his colleagues will have to carry out his work. And in the future this employee will slow down new business processes, because he cannot or not willing to change. If this is a conscious position of the employee, then this is nothing more than sabotage. This is unacceptable. The best solution for this case (both for the employee and for the organization as a whole) is the termination of cooperation.
Ingredient 7. Staff Training and Coaching
Probably the most underestimated ingredient.
Many organizations neglect staff training and coaching (or conduct less than required) in order to save time and reduce their organizational change budget, implying that employees will independently engage in acquiring new knowledge and skills in their free time and at their own expense. Do not make such a mistake!
Organizational change typically requires employees to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills. So, organizational change leader and his/her team must determine exactly what knowledge and skills are needed and to whom. Based on that they have to prepare a Training Plan.
It is extremely important to allow enough time for staff training and provide your staff with the best industry training programs and courses, as well as high quality executive coaching and mentoring.
I would also like to highlight the need and importance of coaching. Training and coaching are not the same thing and they are not interchangeable. Training allows to master a new practical skill. But coaching in this particular case is needed to gather feedback from employees, to work with employee resistance, to communicate key messages, to support employees in implementation of organizational change. That must be done according to a Coaching Plan.
The coaching should be conducted for employees exceptionally by their line manager. This is highly important, because most of the employees want to be heard by their line manager and receive feedback from him/her, not from an external consultant.
No doubts, modern competent managers must possess coaching skills and improve them. However, all managers must be instructed and trained by an external consultant before conducting coaching sessions with subordinates.
Ingredient 8. Employee Motivation
Some executives believe that the fear of being fined or fired is sufficient motivation. But practice shows that highly skilled professionals will never work in a company where fear is cultivated by top managers as a motivating factor. Advanced theoretical studies indicate that such a view on motivation is the most primitive on the scale of evolution of managerial knowledge. It is used and propagated by the least competent managers.
Positive motivation (both tangible and intangible) is a must to stimulate active participation in organizational change, encourage taking responsibility and achieving planned organizational change results. It is also an important article of your organizational change budget. Saving on motivation is an obvious mistake that is made, however, more often than you can imagine.
Ingredient 9. Employee Support
Organizational change requires a lot of efforts from your employees to acquire new skills. Including emotional efforts. Someone may need informational support. Sometimes people need somebody to listen to their fears and doubts before accepting the change.
People are not machines. Therefore, it is necessary to help your employees emotionally and behaviorally integrate into the updated organization. For some of them, an organizational change may mean a change of place in the organization or even a dismissal. Therefore, it is important to inform and support employees in all ways of organizational change.
I am sure that while reading this article you remembered your experience of participating in an organizational change. If your experience was negative, then I assume that one or more of the ingredients was missed. Saved on training and coaching? There was no communication plan? There were no metrics to assess the result of the changes? Top managers were not involved? There are many reasons. The result is the same — the resistance of staff and the failure of changes. If your experience was positive, then I’m sure that there was an experienced consultant, and all the ingredients of a successful organizational change were in place. Tell about your experience (positive or negative) in a comment to the article on Medium or LinkedIn.
Sooner or later, no matter how successful the organization is, you will have to implement changes in order to remain successful. I hope on that day the nine ingredients of successful organizational change will benefit you. Good luck with your organizational change!