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How to Manage Organizational Change

Let’s face it: change is hard. No matter how much we talk about the agile nature of a business or the benefits of process changes, people almost always resist changing the way they do things.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t change, or that change always will always feel negative.

Effective change management follows proven strategies to help team members understand the benefits, minimize resistance, and increase adoption by putting the right plan in place to manage change successfully.

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Manage Organizational Change Effectively for Every Stakeholder

As humans, we are hardwired to find patterns and create routines that help us work more efficiently throughout our day. When someone asks us to change those routines or learn new skills, we feel disrupted and resistant.

Whether you are planning a minor developmental change (such as teaching new skills or upgrading software) or a major transformational change (such as a large-scale ERP implementation or business process re-engineering), long-term stability depends on navigating the change effectively and communicating it to the team members.

But what does that look like in practice? Here are 6 key steps to consider as you learn how to manage organizational change effectively.

6 Tips to Manage Organizational Change Effectively

Identify the People Impacted

Identify key stakeholders who will be impacted and determine where they are on the change curve.

This will help you mitigate unnecessary resistance, address fears, and keep tabs on where the team is mentally based on their level of comfort concerning the change. If team members don’t know what the change means for their daily work and processes, or how it will benefit them, it will be difficult for them to accept. As you check in with each group, you will develop a baseline for how open or resistant the team is to change as well as overall stress and morale levels.


Perform a Cultural Assessment

Assess cultural factors that could impact the success of the change process.

Understanding where your culture is today will help you identify external impacts and internal counterproductive behaviors that may affect your vision for the change.

  • External Factors – What goes on outside the organization can significantly impact what happens inside the organization. Take time to identify external forces that could derail the progression of change if not addressed. These may include market conditions, suppliers, customers, economic fluctuations, social issues, and more.
  • Internal Factors – Understanding how individuals interact within the current process helps you target change efforts more strategically. For example, you may have a culture where certain teams drop everything they are working on to fix a problem, but they never really look at the root cause. This may seem productive in the short term, but the long-term implications may be disastrous.


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Lines of communication must remain open and active throughout the entire change journey.

Communication is not a one-and-done effort during a change initiative. This is when a communications plan will help unpack and cascade the transition down through the organization to ensure process alignment among teams, stakeholders on all levels, and executives. Effective communication also helps teams establish relationships, promote transparency, and maintain a positive partnership during the transition.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Answer the question. “What’s in it for me?” Each stakeholder should understand how the change will benefit the organization as a whole, as well as what it means for their specific role and department.
  • Be clear and honest. Create a culture of transparency by being open about what the change is, when it will happen, and what team members should expect. Be open to questions and answer them as clearly and comprehensively as possible.
  • Be timely. Don’t wait until the last minute to communicate. Give team members time to understand the change and align mentally with what it means for them by keeping everyone informed at every step.
  • Don’t ignore resistance. If you hear that someone is disgruntled by the impending change, address that resistance immediately. Engage in conversation, answer questions, and provide additional resources to bring everyone on board.


Make Change Exciting

Think of fun and innovative ways to communicate the change to the organization.

The more you can do to get people excited about change, the more willing they will be to adapt their behavior. Here are a few tools we use at AXIA that may help you reach various stakeholders in our ever-growing digital world

  • Animated videos, blogs, and other bite-size content pieces
  • Virtual e-learning modules
  • Microlearning assets
  • Video messages from organizational leaders
  • Virtual Q&A sessions
  • Employee newsletters and forums


Create an Engagement and Feedback Loop

Soliciting feedback throughout the change effort will help you keep employees engaged and drive commitment across the organization.

Communication should be a two-way process. One way to accomplish this is to recognize individuals who are embracing the change and demonstrating desired behaviors that support company values. Even if these team members aren’t in a leadership position, they can be key promoters because they can reach employees and have conversations that leadership is unable to facilitate.

By building a healthy engagement and feedback loop, you will better understand how employees are handling the transition. You will also have the insights you need to make necessary adjustments if the change message is unclear.


Cultivate Leadership Visibility

Senior leaders can support this process by modeling the changes themselves.

Often, significant changes or transitions require employees to adopt new behaviors and skillsets. From a change management perspective, leaders should be equipped with resources and information to help them feel confident leading the change. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Educate leaders about change fundamentals. Leaders should understand the benefits and process of change so that they can effectively communicate to their teams.
  • Provide coaching and leadership engagement sessions. These sessions will assist leaders in understanding their roles as change advocates. Topics may include how to be an effective leader during times of change, how to navigate change, and how to deal with roadblocks or resistance.
  • Encourage open communication. Prepare leaders to answer questions from team members as part of an open communication strategy. As team members see their leaders embracing and championing change, those changes will be more likely to cascade down through the organization.


Getting Started: Plan Your Next Steps

Ultimately, successful change hinges on adoption by team members at every level. The goal of change management is to create a strategic plan that helps team members understand and participate in every stage of change, from communication to training to implementation. 

Not sure how much change support your organization needs for an upcoming program initiative? Complete AXIA’s OCM Requirements Evaluation for a free assessment to help get you started.


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