If you want to keep your employees onside, here is what we suggest you do!
A big challenge for most companies is bringing forth and managing a change within the business. People often jump ahead to focussing on the desired outcome of the change and give too much attention to this part of the process. When the desired result doesn’t come right away, people will get frustrated with one another, maybe for their actions or lack of effort. What you should know is that change doesn’t happen all at once in business, it is a process and with all processes come procedures to influence how to do something.
Through research and real-life experience working with our clients, we offer the following advice in terms of organisational change.
Be Clear on the Desired Outcome
It may seem obvious, but many people embark upon change programmes without organisations being apparent on what it is they want to change and what results they expect to achieve.
Once there is a clear goal and clearly defined measurable objectives, these should be communicated widely throughout the entire organisation, whether it directly impacts upon the people involved or not. It is the responsibility of senior management to articulate, champion and actively support the required changes. Don’t rely solely on written communication, though, whilst this is a suitable means of support, verbal communication is by far the most effective method. Also, consider negative comments relayed between private individuals which can undermine even the best-planned communication strategies and think what impact these may have.
As well as planned changes; organisational change occurs frequently, and often you may find managers are not aware of this. Sometimes this happens because goals change, resulting in severe performance issues if not appropriately communicated. Recruitment or departure of personnel, for example, can cause significant disruption and depending on who is involved, this could evoke a larger or smaller reaction. This implicit change needs to be managed the same way as any planned changes.
To better understand, consider what an organisation is. By definition, an organisation is a collection of people performing a series of processes to accomplish a shared goal. When it comes to change, the only element that truly counts is people. For example, if I get my people to change the process; it will change, regardless of whether I update the process manually. But, if I change the goal or process and don’t communicate with my people, then nothing happens.
Understand the Context
So, if it’s people that matter; how do those people interact with the organisation? Humans are complex beings, bringing to work with them their whole selves. Their social history, past experiences, upbringing, even the attitudes and opinions of their parents and this more than anything, will determine how people will react in any given situation.
In an ideal world to properly analyse the effect of the desired change on an organisation, you would need to understand the socio-historical background of each individual. As this is simply not possible, due to lack of time and access to the availability of the necessary information.
Depending on your organisation, there are some general observations that you may be able to make. For example, redundancies in an organisation with a history of such occurrences will evoke a different reaction to that of an organisation with a history of steady employment.
Observations about the general state of the environment are also important, what is the state of the local labour market, what is the impact of unions, how are key customers and suppliers working?
Once you have an understanding of the exact nature of the change, in terms of what it is and also its context, i.e. an understanding of the what, attention can turn to the how.
Identify the Change Agents
The first question to consider when looking at the how is the ‘who’. Within any organisation, there are three types of people when it comes to change. Approximately ten per cent of people are change champions, ten per cent are resistors, and the remainder are reluctant.
Identify your champions as these will be your key change agents in the team; the people with drive who will encourage the (reluctant) majority. Understand what motivates them and ensure you duly reward them. Learn to step into the shoes of others and fully understand the needs, fears, concerns and thoughts of these people.
The change agents will form the basis of your project team. Usually, these people are also key influencers in the business; if this is not the case, there will be some bargaining to be done.
There will be a few people within the organisation who are reluctant to change. Assess the impact of these individuals. If they are key influencers within the business, then keep them close to the project. Try to secure buy-in by understanding their issues and concerns and providing resolution where possible. The most important lesson to learn is that these few cannot be allowed to jeopardise the planned changes. It is inevitable in any extensive organisation change program that some people will not like the changes and move on.
Implement the Change Through a Project or Programme
Once you have a clear goal, measurable objectives and a core team, it is time to implement the change. Programme or project management is by far the best tool when it comes to managing change. Using a project as a tool to promote organisational change works on several levels:
- The tool brings a sense of order and discipline to the necessary changes
- You can measure progress with objectives in mind and view
- Information and updates can be more easily communicated and understood by the organisation as a whole.
An organisation is seeking to change management culture. Historically the organisation has been run by managers who managed at an arm’s length from the team, new managers have joined the organisation, and they want to work closely with the team; seeking their involvement at every stage.
An approach taken by one company is simply to let nature take its course and allow the new managers to involve the team in the decision making gradually. What they found was that the employees were reluctant to get involved in what had previously been a management role. They considered their pay was not enough to make such decisions, and when prompted for ideas, they were fearful of ridicule. Generally, they only saw managers when they were in trouble, so being invited into the management office for a meeting was not a pleasant experience. The new managers began to lose respect, and the team felt that they didn’t know their jobs as they were always seeking ideas and advice. Over time the new managers gave up on initiatives, and eventually, their style lapsed into that of the organisation generally, i.e. a hands-off approach.
A different approach taken was for the managing director to explain to the workforce the benefits of them working more closely with the management to drive change in the organisation. The organisation had a long history of strong union support and took care to involve the union from the onset. Piloting this new approach meant there was a requirement to commission a new project. The production manager together with the supervisor, a shop steward, two operators and two designers were to investigate the impact on the production of new design instructions. The objective was to reduce the cost of issuing new design instructions from £10,000 to £2,500 by reducing the time taken to realign production from four days to one day. The project produced results, and similar projects were commissioned in other areas of the business, resulting in tangible improvements to the company and a gradual shift in management culture.
In the second example, the organisation was apparent in its objectives and communicated those well. It considered the context of the change and thought about the consequences of not taking the opportunity to make changes in light of the new managers. The organisation put together a strong team and then commissioned a project to achieve some real deliverables. A smaller pilot project went ahead, and this led to a more extensive programme once the results were proven.
Review and communicate the results
Many change programmes and projects fade rather than finish, and therefore, people don’t get the recognition or reward they deserve. It is essential after any project to properly review:
- Were all the objectives achieved?
- Did the project run to time and budget?
- Are there phase two elements still to implement?
- Have new project requirements arisen?
From a business perspective, it is crucial to communicate the result of a project and its achievements. Maybe even more important than conveying the message in the beginning.
Some organisations are very good at kicking off projects, they give it a fancy name, a slot on the notice board, it makes the front cover of the newsletter; but when a project finishes it goes unnoticed. In these organisations, initiative fatigue sets in, as people feel there is always something new, but ultimately nothing gets done. “Oh no, not another quality drive, we didn’t finish the last one, did we?”
For organisational change to be worthwhile in driving business transformation, follow these simple steps:
- Decide what you want to change and communicate
- Understand what you want to change
- Decide who will make the changes
- Commission a project or programme
- Communicate the results
Is your business going through a period of organisational change? With our expertise in change management consultancy, our team can assist in managing change processes to meet your desired outcomes: call 01282 463 710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can complete our online contact form to request a callback.