Change Management: Part II. 10 Basic Principles
Effective Change Management Methods for Transforming Your Corporate Culture
According to basic change management principles, there are specific activities that MUST be undertaken to ensure that ANY change within the corporate structure and/or culture is not only successful but effective, sound and palatable to all parties.
To achieve long-term cultural transformation, the leadership team should analyze the four basic characteristic of “change” within an organization. They include:
- Scale – will the change impact some (or all) of the organization; some (or all) of the customer base and/or any other factors?
- Magnitude – will the change require significant modification to the “status quo?”
- Duration – How long will it take to implement and “take hold?” Weeks? Months?? Or Years??
- Strategic Importance – how critical is this change to the success and long-term viability of the organization?
While careful consideration and attention is given to each of the above characteristics, the eventual outcome can still be uncertain. In fact, some of those opposed to the change will cite those uncertainties as reason why the change being contemplated should not occur. The first and most obvious concern:
How will the employees react to the change? Will the organization be able to retain most or all of those impacted by the change? Will this change in any way alter the identity or values that exist? And, what impact could the change have on the reputation of the organization within their respective industry?
10 Basic Principles for leadership to deal with change management:
Since every culture, workforce, industry and even location will possess differences, no single method can or will fit every organization; however, there are 10 basic principles, or techniques, that the leadership team should incorporate as part of their action plan. They include:
1.) Start at the top: Because change is obviously unsettling for people at all levels of an organization, when it is on the horizon, all eyes will turn to the CEO and the leadership team for strength, support, and direction. The leadership team MUST embrace the new approaches first, both to challenge and to motivate the rest of the institution. They must speak with one voice and model the desired behaviors. The executive team also needs to understand that, although its public face may be one of unity, it, too, is composed of individuals who are going through stressful times and need to be supported.
2.) Address the “Human Capital” Component: To achieve significant and long-term transformation, leaders of the organization must act as “Change Agents” and step-up-to-the-plate by fully embracing the change, walking the talk and leaving no room for ambiguity (even “if” they’re not fully behind the change). In other words, staff members cannot perceive that there’s any disagreement, or differences of opinion, within the leadership ranks. Accordingly, managers must explain that jobs will be changed, new skills and competencies will be needed and that the change management approach is seamless, and integrated, at all levels of the organization. And, as much as possible, this integration should be based on the organization’s history, culture, readiness and capacity to change.
3.) Involve every layer: As indicated, each member of the management team is accountable for cascading the message down within the organization by and reinforcing the strategy, as well as the details that pertain to the implementation. It’s essential that the conduct and behaviors of each and every leader be aligned with the company’s professional code of conduct, vision and mission; they must model motivation – if not an eagerness – for the transformation. As much as possible, the Architect’s of the change and the Change Agent’s should make certain to include each and every department and layer within the organization to ensure inclusiveness and a consistent message.
4.) Make the case: It’s basic human nature that some, if not many, individuals will resist change and question to what extent change is actually needed. In fact, those employees that have a tendency to contribute to low morale by engaging in rumors and criticism of the leadership team will use the opportunity of impending change to inquire whether the company is headed in the right direction; and, whether they want to personally commit to help making the change happen.
For that reason, it’s critical that everyone be given the opportunity to seek answers from the leadership team; and, it’s incumbent upon those leaders to articulate a formal case for change and support that with written materials – such as laminated cards, posters and/or newsletter that underscore the purpose and desired outcome. The ultimate goal is to create upbeat “synergy” where each employee feels that he/she is an integral part of this change by compelling all employees to be aligned with the vision for the future.
5.) Create Ownership: The leaders of an organization tasked with creating, implementing and sustaining transformative change must evangelize the change and create critical mass among their teams in support of the change. To challenge and “status-quo” and effectively influence this “pro- change” synergy, managers must possess a sense of ownership that not only supports the impending change, but conveys a message that, as a leader, they were architects involved in the planning and execution of the change.
Furthermore, leaders must be willing to accept responsibility for making the change happen in each and every area of the business that they control. And, should there be an unexpected problem or issue that arises during the change process, the leadership team must acknowledge the problem and take responsibility for not anticipating the issue.
6.) Communicate the message: Leaders need to speak with one voice leaving no room for ambiguity or misinformation. This means relying less on the written word (i.e. e-mail) and more on “real-time” exchanges through staff meetings, open forums and all company meetings. One of the most fundamental flaws of today’s businesses is to “assume” that when a message is delivered that all of the recipients fully understand the details and complexities of the message.
To ensure that the message is clearly understood by all parties, organizations MUST invest in reinforcing the message through various methods on a consistent basis. Consequently, managers need to make certain that the core message is communicated during regular intervals and inspirational and practical advice.
7.) Utilize the cultural landscape: Before, and throughout, any cultural transformation it’s essential that the leaders of the organization continually assess the culture and, if necessary, modify the message and tailor it to each level of the organization. By taking the “pulse” of the culture (and its people) the leaders can determine the overall readiness to change; bring issues and problems to the surface; identify conflicts or disconnects, as well as properly define factors that can influence pockets of resistance.
8.) Ensure cultural identify: After a thorough analysis of the culture, the leadership team and the various agents of change will (or should) possess a solid and deep understanding of the culture. Consequently, they will have identified those behaviors that will both support the change, and ensure the best possible outcome, after which they able to model and reward those behaviors.
While it seems rather rudimentary, with proper and effective coaching, counseling, modeling and adjusting behaviors where and when needed, the leadership team can enhance the culture, improve managements overall credibility and position themselves from a place of integrity and authenticity.
9.) Prepare for the unexpected: This is actually the mantra for any HR team. While the plans, preparations and details appear to be “right-on,” you can never really plan for things like a key member of the team resigning from the organization, or a sudden and totally unexpected shift in the marketplace – or even something catastrophic like wildfires and earthquakes.
Additionally, even with a scripted concise and highly articulate message, each person within the organization will react to the change in different ways depending on their level within the organization, gender, tenure, age, position, as well as their own personal security or insecurities. To effectively manage change, the leadership team must continually reassess the message, impact and willingness to adopt the next wave or transformation being contemplated.
10.) Finally, Speak to the individual: It’s essential that any change, whether small or large, include the “personal touch.” The fact is, staff members spend many hours a year at work. As a result, many companies (especially smaller family owned enterprises) find that their colleagues become second families; that means that each member of this “family” understand how their specific role within the organization will change. In doing so, the management team should not only address what, within each respective role will change, but how, when and with whom. Moreover, the most critical aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is making sure to involve – and engage – each and every member of the team by seeking their advice, feedback and allaying any concerns or problems they may express.
In addition to knowing and understanding how their work will change and what is expected of them during and after the change program, the leadership team needs to communicate how each team member will be measured, or evaluated, and what success or failure will mean for them and those around them. In conveying these details, it’s essential that the management team practice open and honest communication with the objective of being as explicit as possible. And, on the rare occasion where someone stands is vocal opposition to the change, disciplining and even terminating the person(s) standing in the way of change will serve to reinforce the institution’s commitment, as well as enhance the credibility of the leaders.
While these ten principles may, at first glance, appear to be rather basic if not redundant, the reader needs to realize that “the best laid plans have the potential to fail”. Consequently, to ensure the best possible outcome for any/all change it will require thorough planning, verifying, checking, re-checking, modifying, including, resolving, addressing and realigning the message when and where necessary up and down the organization. Thus, the above principles are intended to serve as a tool or guide for leaders to use throughout the change process.
If you have any questions or would like any additional information pertaining to this blog, or perhaps a change/transformation that your organization is contemplating, I invite you to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to read the other two blogs in this series please use the links below:
Mike Russell is a seasoned professional with three decades of experience in the fields of HR and OD. In addition to having a career trajectory of HR Generalist to a VP within ten years, Mike also has a long and successful background as a Consultant/Business Partner to CEO’s, Presidents and Executive Directors in both the private and non-profit communities across a wide spectrum of industries.
As the sole-proprietor and owner of Organizational Development Solutions (ODS), Mike partners with business leaders committed to insulating their organization(s) from potential liability, increasing organizational effectiveness and adding shareholder value.