Few people enjoy change, whether at work or in their personal lives. Whether they resist out of fear of how the change will affect them or simply because making lasting change takes a lot of work, many organizational change efforts fail because of resistance. Large-scale change efforts can be effective, though, with a well thought-out plan. Following steps to clarify the goals of the change and getting employee buy-in will ensure that the change goes smoothly and moves the organization forward.
Demonstrate the importance of the change. Many people will resist unless they see the change is urgently needed. Demonstrating the importance might mean breaking down the cost of office supplies to show that too much money is being spent or showing a video or letter from a customer expressing disappointment with your product or service.
Develop a leadership team to shepherd the change process. The team should include representatives from all departments affected by the change, involving both management and lower-level employees. The team members should be enthusiastic and committed to making the change.
Create a clear vision of what change needs to occur and your desired results. Unless you know exactly why you are changing and what needs to happen, the change effort is likely to stall due to lack of direction.
Communicate about the change early and often, maintaining a consistent message. Employees often resist change when they feel blindsided by it or they do not understand what it means for them.
Empower employees to act to push the change forward. This doesn’t mean letting everyone do whatever they want, but instead, allowing them to make decisions that will move the organization toward its goals. For example, a business changing its customer service approach can empower customer service representatives to issue refunds to unhappy customers without manager approval.
Celebrate the progress you make toward the change. When the change effort is long-term, employees can lose enthusiasm if they feel as if nothing is happening. Acknowledge short-term wins to maintain momentum.
Monitor the change effort over time and make adjustments as necessary. Anticipate problems and proactively address them. Assessing your efforts on a regular basis can help prevent wasting time on activities that are not effective.
Large-scale change takes time to implement and take hold; major change does not happen overnight.
- "The Heart of Change: Real Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations"; John Kotter and Dan Cohen; 2002
- Harvard Business School: Get Off the Dime!
- Harvard Business School: It's Not Nagging -- Why Persistent, Redundant Communication Works
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images