Dealing with inevitable change in an organization typically involves transitioning to a new way of working. Sometimes this occurs during a business transformation that realigns people, processes and technology seamlessly to new strategic objectives. Other times, changes can be intimidating and stressful, frequently because of the uncertainty often associated with new situations. Whether managing large-scale change or simple alterations to policies and procedures, if you prepare adequately and communicate effectively, you can help yourself and others accept change with minimal disruption.
Ensure you have executive sponsorship for the proposed change. Identify potential threats and examine opportunities. Start talking with people at every level of your organization to build a convincing case for making the change. Involve customers, if the change affects them.
Identify leaders in the organization to help orchestrate the changes. Create a team representing different levels and departments to discuss ideas about how to manage the change effectively.
Establish a vision. Create a short presentation describing the future. List reasons why the change benefits the organization.
Communicate with your organization. Schedule meetings, send email and distribute newsletters describing the change and associated details. Align all change management activities with the company’s strategic goals. Give people a chance to express their concerns. Be prepared to deal with anxiety.
Remove obstacles and barriers to change. Identify people who resist change and determine what can be done to help them. Acknowledging that change is a difficult and complex process allows people to deal with change in their own way.
Identify a few short-term projects to demonstrate that the change benefits the company. Do not begin with an expensive, risky project, since initial failure can be demoralizing. Reward team members who successfully make the adjustments and find new ways to get the job done.
Analyze successful projects to determine what should be repeated and what needs improvement. Ask for candid feedback from employees at all levels. Highlight successful projects in newsletters and other company communication. For example, interview employees and publish the conversation on your company Intranet site to inspire other staff members. Use audio and video to enhance the impact of your message and motivate the rest of the company.
Document all changes made throughout the organization and any lessons learned in the process. Thus, the next time change inevitably occurs, your documentation will hold the key for addressing problems and improving the process.
- “Leading Change”; John P. Kotter; 1996
- Inc.: Leading Change -- Creating an Organization That Lives Change
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.