Organizational change is an inevitability when you’re in the business world, with shifting markets and consumer trends. By its nature change is something that hinders business and makes the future more difficult to predict, whch is bad when you’re trying to make long-term plans. Fortunately, there are ways of coping with change both as it comes and in advance.
Defining Change: The Basic Types
There are many different types of change that can occur within an organization. They vary in scale and impact, and often can be unpredictable. The five basic types of organizational change are:
- Organizational Change
- Transformational Change
- Personnel Change
- Unplanned Change
- Remedial Change
Organizational change covers anything that affects your entire organization, such as adoption of new policies or software. Transformational change refers to any changes in your direction as a business, while personnel and unplanned changes are exactly what they say on the tin – changes in personnel and anything unexpected that you did not plan for. Remedial change is anything that addresses deficiencies in your organization, whether that be falling performance or low efficiency. One thing to note here is that remedial change isn’t necessarily down to poor performance on the part of your team, sometimes strategies and/or products that seem tried and tested can fall in efficiency as time goes on.
Strategies For Change: The How-To
Change is something that can be planned for, with disruptions hopefully minimized by said plans. So, the question is, how do you go about forming a change management strategy? When creating such a strategy you need to take into account nuances across your organization, specific things that might pose problems and be realistic with your expectations.
Below you’ll find five methods to formulate a change management strategy and get the most out of it:
Define Your Vision
The starting point when formulating a strategy is, ironically, the very end. Once you know what you want to achieve and in what time frame you can start to set out a plan for how you might get there. Once you’ve started to plan out a roadmap for your organization’s journey, it can become apparent what areas will need the most emphasis and where barriers might occur. Specifically what those areas and barriers are will depend on the type of change you plan to implement, but as a general rule you can expect problems to crop up with supplying and using new equipment, staff engagement and overall efficiency when the changes are first applied. These problems aren’t ones you can completely overcome, but with planning they can be lessened so their overall impact is brief.
Employee Resistance to Change
Nobody likes change, and that applies to your personnel just as much as your consumers. When changes are implemented, your first priority when dealing with employees is making them aware of the changes – not just what is changing but why it is occurring. Not only does this make your employees feel far more involved and therefore motivated, but they may spot problems or solutions to problems that a member of management several degrees removed from their job might not think of. This is especially true in businesses where regional branches or separate departments have specific needs and issues that need to be accounted for when implementing change.
Communication is the key to collaboration, and since any organizational change will necessarily involve your employees, it’s best to have a strategy for how to address their fears and concerns about new changes, as well as take note of any suggestions they might have.
Change is often implemented at the highest levels, with the CEO deciding what they want done and those below them executing it. Management support is about demonstrating commitment to the changes, formulating a plan for supporting those below them and overall being supportive of your employees while they go through the process. If there is a disconnect between top management and middle management, the planned changes are likely to fail. If there isn’t any communication between middle management and personnel, the planned changes are likely to fail.
The overall process of change is likely to take effort on the part of lower personnel and middle management, and the process should be monitored via feedback to ensure the desired changes are being made. Whether that’s talks with personnel, feedback forms, etc. the more lines of communication you have from those making the decisions to those implementing them, the easier the change will be to accomplish.
Also known as learning on the job, this is the process by which personnel learn how to use new tools and procedures while on the job, treating learning as an ongoing journey rather than simply a read and memorize approach. This is especially useful when dealing with software, where the most efficient ways which things can be accomplished are not always clear.
Contextual learning requires at least one person to know what they’re doing so they can assist others when they run into difficulty. In an office setting where personnel are divided into small groups, this can be easily accomplished by training one member of the team before others. Through this method, the group can come to grips with the new procedures easily whilst not wasting any time sitting in a lecture.
Organizational agility is a catch-all term for the ability to react quickly to changes in business, often on the timescale of days or even hours at a time when necessary. It’s very useful in the digital world, where shifting trends and culture can change by the second.
What exactly agility is will depend on your organization’s structure and goals, but can be roughly defined as change management skills, time management and the ability to perform fast evaluations, and the mindset of being able to change and adapt quickly. All of these are skills that need to be learned, rather than being innate. It’s human nature to resist change, after all. With proper agility training, change can become routine and near effortless instead of daunting and painful.