80% of leaders say they need more training to keep up with technological change (Open University). The accelerating pace of change is a top challenge for business leaders.
The introduction of new processes, technology or products to a business involves organisational transformation. Adjustment is required by everyone. Since we all have our own preferred communication style, motivations and priorities, messages about organisational transformation will be interpreted differently by individuals and teams.
Today’s world requires continual movement, for us to innovate, learn and grow. Organisations need to be agile and receptive to the changing demands of their customers whilst keeping pace with game-changing technologies and emerging markets.
Adopting traditional approaches to change management risks disengaging workforces, leading to apathy or burnout. Organisational goals should be written in concrete, but the plans to get there must be in sand. It’s essential that firms consider the differences between their employees and modify their change management approach accordingly.
Transitioning from traditional business approaches to market-leading ones can be uncomfortable, lengthy and budget-busting. Impacts of poorly managed organisational change include stress-related absenteeism, reduced productivity, team conflict and attrition.
What about the employees who stay? Are they more resilient, more motivated, or simply better aligned with the change? There is a way to communicate organisational changes that brings more people along for the ride. To communicate well about change, companies need to simultaneously change the way they communicate. Bringing your people on board from the beginning will help to reduce the dip in performance that most organisations suffer.
Imagine an environment in which your people and teams are empowered to effect change in the workplace. Leaders are collaborative and authentic, clearly presenting the case for change. Challenges and questions are managed respectfully and honestly.
For example, a meeting is called to discuss the findings of a competitor review. The consequences of this potential threat are shared. This would allow everyone to input into the way that business will maintain its competitive edge. Cross-departmental teams could be formed to work on challenges. Leaders often feel that they must own the business problems, but effective change management requires the entire organisation to get behind the new direction.
Open communication may sound like a simple solution to organisational transformation, but deployed correctly, it is highly effective. Rather than disengaging employees, organisational change can foster creativity and passion within an organisation, creating opportunities for personal development. Highly effective organisations seek to employ people with development potential, who can upskill quickly and work across multiple disciplines to deliver the projects that will grow their businesses.
Organisations need to become educators, facilitating rapid development of apprentices, interns and graduates to harness the value of their innovative thinking and problem-solving. Agile yet structured succession plans need to be established to nurture new talent. Change can create short term discomfort for leaders. We can find ourselves feeling out of control or lacking in subject matter expertise as we start to work on cross-functional projects or are seconded to other areas of the business. Yet leadership is never in such high demand as when firms undergo change.
Up to two thirds of large-scale transformation efforts fail. Here are six organisational change management strategies that you can employ to buck the trend.
1. Increase self-awareness
Change management is all about people. Your role as the leader is to inspire your people with your organisational vision and help them achieve it. Invest in understanding the strengths, risk areas and motivators of your team, as well as your own preferences. This is your heat map for focusing activities to manage change effectively.
2. Instil trust
When an organisation is undergoing rapid change, feedback is vital. Honest dialogue within teams allows for changing circumstances and their implications to be understood and addressed, and tensions diffused. Reward honesty and encourage feedback and accountability. Make it clear that as your organisation thrives, so will your workforce.
3. Question convention but stay focused on your vision
Your vision for change needs to be shared by all. Leaders need to demonstrate that even ambitious plans are achievable with the right motivation and mindsets. Celebrate wins along with way, demonstrating that the progress being made is important and positive.
4. Empower decision-making at all levels
Motivate your people by giving them accountability and ownership, and encourage innovation, even from your most junior team members. Shifting focus onto delivering the vision and desired outcomes will help to align and empower teams.
5. Minimise penalties for making mistakes
Whilst successful delivery is the goal, encouraging your people to innovate, test and learn will help motivate them to go the extra mile. Studies show correlation between creativity and engagement, so help your people grow by challenging them and coaching them through mistakes within a safe learning environment.
6. Learn from failure
A team that possesses a philosophy of supporting one another should also be able to constructively challenge each other’s decisions. Collectively review and respond to lessons learned. They are invaluable signposts to your future success.