Managing Organizational Change

Organizational change is increasingly necessary in many fast-paced industries to enable them to remain competitive, productive and profitable.  The change process is one that should always start from the top and filter down through the workforce until it has been successfully integrated.  However, there are positive and negative ways of implementing change and the negative ways can be potentially damaging to the organization and its employees.

Reasons for change

There are many different reasons why an organization experiences change and these can include:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Management restructure
  • The introduction of new technology
  • Relocation of business premises

The impact of change can be dramatic and have an effect on all employees, or it can be relatively minor with only certain departments and individuals affected.  However, no matter how all-encompassing the change may or may not be, it should still be handled carefully to ensure success.

Ineffective change management

In the past, managers have been under the misconception that change is something that they simply need to impose on their employees.  After all, they pay their wages so they should do what they are told.  However, this has been shown to be a particularly negative way of implementing change.  Organizational change can be extremely unsettling for all concerned and to just enforce it without first discussing the issues involved with the employees can result in a loss of trust and support.

Also, trying to “sell” change is also considered to be negative.  If, in effect, you are offering your employees positive rewards in the short-term to obtain their support for change, it is more than likely that in the long-term this will turn out to be unsustainable.

Step 1: Explain the need for change

Before you even think about implementing organizational change, your employees need to be told the reasons why change is necessary.  Their view of the business may be very different from that of the managers and they may not fully understand the consequences if change is not adopted; for example, if the business stands to lose money or faces possible job cuts if changes are not taken on board immediately.  Also, try to ensure that the needs of the employees are aligned with those of the business so that everyone is working together towards the same objectives.  As long as these needs are positive for all concerned, you should find that you can obtain the support you need from your employees for the introduction of change.

Step 2: Discuss what is involved

After you have explained why change is necessary, you should describe exactly what is going to take place.  Encourage feedback and suggestions from your employees so that they feel that they are contributing to the overall direction of the business.  This helps them to feel more motivated towards the achievement of these goals.  This not only helps your employees but also allows you to see things from both perspectives.  You may even learn something or be presented with a new idea that hadn’t even occurred to you.

Step 3: Provide training and support

Some people are naturally better suited to coping with the implementation of change.  However, others may be less comfortable and will benefit from the provision of training.  Workshops are a really effective way of achieving understanding and encouraging group participation, and training ensures that the change is actually understood by everybody concerned which is essential for long-term success.  Use training and feedback sessions to ensure that people understand their individual role in the implementation of change and also that they are aware of how this will affect their daily responsibilities. 

Step 4: Implement change

It is commonly accepted that change does not happen overnight; it can be a lengthy process that often involves a series of changes working towards the achievement of the overall objective.  Setting targets along the way is an effective way of making sure that the team remains motivated.  Encourage managers to provide support and constructive feedback and ensure that individual and team achievements are recognized.  The more positive the whole experience is, the more successful the overall process will be.

Step 5: Reinforce change

Once the change process is complete, it is important that the new systems, processes and procedures are seen to be successful.  One guaranteed way of losing the support of your team is for them to feel that they have undergone a major period of upheaval for no apparent reason.  Continually review the changes that have been made to make sure that they are working towards the achievement of business objectives.

Conclusion

Organizational change requires careful planning as well as thoughtful implementation.  You should be aware of the impact this change has on your employees and be patient – do not rush change as this can be counterproductive.  A consultative process has been proven to be the most successful way of implementing change rather than a forceful approach that does not take into consideration the individual needs and concerns of staff.

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