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.

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