Author Archives: Luther Hosford

Implementing Organizational Change

Our last post covered planning for the change. Now comes the challenging part – implementing the change. Be prepared for a “bumpy ride”.

The implementation phase incorporates five practices that you will need to address.

  1. Start at the top. Any change is always unsettling to people. All eyes turn to Human Resources and leadership for answers, direction, support and strength. Therefore, you and the organization’s leaders must embrace the planned change first to ensure that everyone is behind the change, and all are speaking with one voice and modeling the desired change. This step provides leaders the opportunity to ensure they are committed to the change, understand the culture and behaviors the changes intend to introduce and model these changes for themselves. At this stage you might discover that you need to tweak the change vision based on issues you’ve experienced at the leadership level. It’s better to address the issue now rather than have the change stall as individuals begin questioning leadership’s vision and commitment to the change.
  2. Involve all organizational layers. As change programs progress, different levels of the organization will be affected in different ways. Therefore, change must include giving leaders the responsibility for change design and implementation as it cascades through the organization. This step can be started during the planning stage, but it may be better to incorporate it into the “starting at the top” phase when you and your leadership are working through the potential change vision “kinks”. The identified leaders at each layer of the organization need to be trained to ensure they are aligned with the change vision, equipped to execute their specific change mission and motivated to make the change happen.
  3. Communicate the message. Change leaders too often make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need for change and see the new direction as clearly as they do. Successful change programs reinforce core messages through regular and timely information that is encouraging, reassuring and practical. During this phase, communications need to flow up and down the organization and be targeted to provide individuals with needed information at the right time. It’s also important to ask for and encourage their input and feedback.
  4. Create ownership. Leaders must overperform during the change process and create the critical mass that supports the change and the desired end-state. This requires ownership by leaders who are willing to accept responsibility for influencing change to occur. Ownership can be created by involving people in the identification of problems and crafting solutions. Ownership is reinforced by incentives and rewards that can be either tangible or psychological.
  5. Speak to the individual. Change is an organizational journey and a very personal journey. Individuals and teams need to know how their work will change, what is expected of them, how they will be measured and judged and what success or failure will mean for themselves and others. Team leaders need to be honest and explicit when they are addressing these areas so that individuals buy in and become actively involved. Sanction or removal of individuals standing in the way of change reinforces the organization’s commitment to the change.

Most Human Resources organizations and leaders who are contemplating change know that people matter. But it is often tempting to focus on the plans and processes which don’t provide feedback and don’t recognize and respond to the difficult and more critical human issues.

These planning and implementation practices provide you and organizational leaders with the framework to help you create a successful change management program. The key is remembering no change goes smoothly. Several ongoing checkpoints need to be built into the process so the change program can be tweaked to ensure total organizational buy in and the successful achievement of the end-state.

Keep your ears to the ground, learn along the way, and make the most of the journey.

Planning for Organizational Change

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor who has written extensively about change management, has stated that successful companies develop “a culture that just keeps moving all the time.” This presents organizational leadership and Human Resources with the challenge of understanding the human side of change management – alignment of the organization’s culture, values, people, and behaviors – to achieve the desired results of change.

No single methodology fits every organization, but there is a set of planning practices that can be adapted to a variety of situations. Using these planning practices as a framework, leadership and Human Resources can understand what to expect during the change process, how to manage their own personal change, and how to engage the entire organization in the change process.

The planning practices I’m outlining can be used for managing any type of change – some examples are a department reorganization, a change in departmental leadership, or an organization-wide change. In this post I will cover the planning phase of change management. My next post will cover the implementation of the planned change.

The planning phase incorporates five practices that you will need to address.

  1. Address the “human side”. As we all know, change creates “people issues.” A formal approach for managing the change should be developed and utilized on an ongoing basis as the change moves through the organization. The change-management plan needs to be based on a realistic assessment of the organization’s history with change, the organization’s readiness for change, and the organization’s capacity to change. The plan needs to begin with the leadership team, then key stakeholders, and then move systematically through the remainder of the organization.
  2. Make the case for change. As you well know, individuals will question the need for the change, whether it will lead the organization in the right direction and whether they are personally committed to make the change happen. The creation of a vision statement that articulates the reason for the change and the result you anticipate from it is an opportunity to create leadership team alignment and answer potential questions from individuals during the implementation phase.
  3. Assess the cultural landscape. It is critically important to understand the organization’s culture and anticipate behaviors at each organizational level. A thorough cultural assessment can help you and leadership move forward and identify possible conflicts and resistance to the change. The cultural assessment serves as the baseline for designing the essential elements that will lead to a successful change.
  4. Address the culture thoroughly. The leaders need to define the desired culture and behaviors that will best support the new way of doing business and then identify opportunities to model and reward those behaviors. Also, devise a detailed plan that specifically outlines the desired end-state. One effective way to jump-start a cultural change is by identifying the organization’s cultural center – the center or source of thought, activity, influence or personal identification.
  5. Prepare for the unexpected. Change-management programs never go according to plan – people react in unexpected ways, resistance occurs, and the internal and external environment can shift. There are six sequential and predictable stages of change.
  • Stage 1: Loss to safety – feelings of fear, thoughts are cautious, and behavior is paralyzed
  • Stage 2: Doubt to reality – feelings of resentment, thoughts are skeptical, and behavior is resistant
  • Stage 3: Discomfort to motivation – feeling of anxiety, thoughts are confused, and behavior is unproductive
  • Stage 4: Discovery to perspective – feelings of anticipation, thoughts are resourceful, and behavior is energized
  • Stage 5: Understanding to awareness – feelings of confidence, thoughts are pragmatic, and behavior is productive
  • Stage 6: Integration to flexibility – feelings of satisfaction, thoughts are focused, and behavior is committed and engaged

Now that you have the implementation plan outlined you are prepared to move into the implementation phase. As you do this, keep in mind that you will most likely find that you have overlooked some issues that arise. That’s when you need to revisit and tweak the implementation plan. Plan on the stages moving slowly for some groups and individuals and quickly and smoothly for others. Build the 1/3 – 1/3 – 1/3 rule into the implementation plan. The rule of thumb is one third of the organization will adopt the change openly; one third will be skeptical of the change but are willing to give it a try; and one third will resist and may attempt to undermine the change. Effectively managing the change requires continual reassessment of the organization’s readiness and ability to adopt it. Enjoy and learn from the journey through change. Stay tuned for the next blog covering the Implementation phase.

The Effect of Organizational Change on HR

What will be different about the organization of the future? How might your organization change as it evolves? How will these changes impact how HR organizations function?

Organizations are increasingly under pressure from multiple sources, including technologies, markets, customers, employee expectation, government, and public opinion. Simultaneously, the economy has become increasingly service oriented and digital, and the importance of speed has become critical for organizational success and growth. In many cases, lack of talent and ideas are constraining growth. Despite the growing need for speed, trapped resources and talent can’t be mobilized to address critical challenges and opportunities.

Organizations are also finding they need to adapt to changing employee expectations and loyalty. Some employees are questioning traditional corporate career paths, others place a higher value on learning opportunities rather than on traditional incentives, and yet others prefer to work for an organization that has a higher purpose than only profits. It is also becoming more common that potential employees prefer gig or contract work arrangements.

Bain and Company has some insight into what the future may hold for organizations. Bain’s experience with clients points to five emerging challenges for leadership teams:

  • Balancing organization scale (proportional business growth) and customer engagement
  • Transitioning from professional managers to mission-critical roles
  • Balancing organizational assets and ecosystems (interconnected organizations)
  • Engine 1 (today’s core business) vs. Engine 2 (tomorrow’s core business)

Balancing Organization Scale and Customer Engagement

One emerging challenge will be balancing organizational growth while maintaining the ability to become engaged and stay engaged with customers. Often, as an organization grows and becomes more organizationally complex it loses touch with its customer base. Future organizations will need to compete using both the benefits of growth and customer engagement to gain and maintain a market-competitive advantage.

Professional Managers vs Mission-Critical Roles

As organizations develop their customer-centered mission, they will need to identify and define the roles that will be critical to achieving a desirable culture. These mission-critical roles will require incumbents who have the necessary skill sets to manage both organizational growth and customer focus. In addition, these mission-critical roles need to be organizationally positioned close to the customer to shorten feedback loops and increase speed and agility. Managerial spans will widen as more information passes peer-to-peer rather than hub-and-spoke. The role of a manager will evolve into a coach, mentor and talent developer as team members move from one role to another.

Assets vs Ecosystems

The concept of organizational ecosystems has taken the form of outsourcing, initially starting with noncore assets and eventually spreading through all parts of the organization’s value chain. Any part of the organizational value chain can be outsourced. The key is to assess what the organization wants to do itself, and then through outsourcing form partnerships to maximize value for customers. This will require a new set of skills for those individuals engaged with managing vendor partners.

Engine 1 (today’s core business), Engine 2 (tomorrow’s core business)

Organizations are always looking for innovations to improve their core business – what Bain calls Engine 1. At the same time, organizations need to anticipate major and disruptive external changes – new customer needs, new competitors, new markets, new economics – to dramatically impact their organization and potentially become tomorrow’s core business – what Bain calls Engine 2. To anticipate these changes and trends, organizations need to stay externally focused, understand the customer’s needs, foresee moves that current and potential competitors are making, learn from ecosystem partners, and tap into the collective knowledge of internal resources that are customer-facing.

Leading and working in a firm of the future will be different. Teams will be formed to attack specific business problems and disband when the problem is solved. Organizations will be focused on hiring and retaining talent for mission-critical skills and designing around these mission-critical roles. Leaders will need to transition from traditional management roles to inspirational and coaching roles. Change management will thrust new challenges on leadership. Organizational transitions can occur abruptly, and leadership needs to think long-term and act.

There is no one formula for dealing with organizational change. The key is to build resilience to change into the organization. Organizations that can absorb shocks, and change coarse quickly and smoothly, will have a chance of thriving. Human Resources needs to be prepared to provide leadership during these transformations.