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February 19, 2018

Organizational change management: Everyone has a role

Change is a constant factor in corporate life today, and some companies will face it more gracefully than others.

Busy businesspeople meet in a hall.

Companies today can’t stand still operationally.

Businesses that don’t grow and change are at risk of falling behind their competitors, as technology and consumer priorities shift around them. Taking organizational change as a necessary part of growth and development doesn’t make it easy, though. Shaking out of established patterns and doing things in a new way remains difficult both to start, and to maintain.
Companies can invest in employee education and training programs that tackle organizational change head-on. Due to the inescapable nature of change, it makes sense to treat this as its own topic. When companies successfully transition to new operational models, these training priorities are revealed as smart decisions.

Getting the process started

Training to prepare for organizational change can and should apply to a company’s whole team. Smooth evolution is a process everyone will have to participate in, and responsibilities can differ widely between the various levels of an organization. Harvard Business School’s version of a modern change management framework dictates the early stages of the process should include a “coalition” of top stakeholders brought in to make sure the organization’s plan takes many different perspectives into account.
From there, it’s up to managers at various levels of the company to keep their respective teams on the right track. This begins with setting expectations and objectives and continues with adjusted incentives and reward structures to encourage employees to make new practices second nature. Managers should communicate often, ensuring their parts of the company are consistent with post-change operations rather than the previous default. If workers find it easy to give up on the new way of doing things, the whole company may backslide.

Change as a mindset

Taking the first few productive steps toward significant organizational change is important, but what about the last step – the end goal? As Forbes contributor Carsten Tams recently explained, there isn’t really a clean finish to change. Models in which organizations stop what they’re doing, implement a whole new way of doing things and then stop, exist more on paper than in reality. Certainly in an era when the trends guiding business are always moving, starting and stopping change can do businesses a disservice.
Change leaders in modern organizations can achieve the greatest good when they leave their organizations in a state that is not only different from where it began, but also receptive to future evolution. It could be hard to get employee buy-in to a seemingly never-ending evolution, but this is one of the steps managers will have to take.

A business leader addresses her team.Leaders have a unique role to play in ensuring change sticks.

Leaders’ unique position

What can the overall leaders of companies and departments do to make change successful? The first thing they have to do is realize they’re not the only ones in position to design or pilot the strategies. Tams warned against management unilaterally deciding on a direction and ignoring the opinions and advice of others. The Harvard Business School method also prioritizes coalition-designed approaches instead of change handed down from singular sources of authority.
The idea that the leader isn’t the be-all and end-all for organizational change does not indicate the manager has no role in change. In fact, Harvard Business Review described some of the singular ways in which leaders’ everyday behaviors and decisions send strong signals to their teams. Leading by example is an essential part of providing steady guidance through organizational change.
For instance, the HBR noted that signaling an acceptance and embrace of change won’t necessarily feel natural. People will have to monitor their own behavior closely, to make sure they’re not falling back into old habits. Furthermore, they’ll have to make behind-the-scenes changes to success metrics, capital allocation and more. Putting in this extra effort to ensure the company is truly moving ahead in the promised ways will make it easier for workers of all levels to believe the change is valuable and permanent, rather than a fad or phase.

Training to accept change

Due to the varying practices and approaches needed to make change successful, the training courses targeting this phase of business cover a lot of thematic ground. The following are a few offerings on this topic:

  • Creating a Mindset for Change: This 6-part program’s innovation is that it helps organizations change their attitudes toward change, which prepares employees to overcome any organizational challenge. First, leaders take in its message about becoming flexible, collaborative and ready to change their mindset over time. Those top-ranking managers then carry the lessons to their teams, making sure the effects take hold.
  • Strategies for Embracing Change: This training module focuses on ensuring new approaches to business don’t cause unwelcome disruption at any level of a company. Learners will be instructed on adjusting expectations and taking on challenges.

The modern business world won’t let companies stay stagnant for long. Therefore, always being ready for change is simply a sound practice.

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