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Implementing An Organizational Realignment – Useful Guidelines

With any organizational realignment or restructuring the challenge and real work is in the gritty day-to-day details of implementation. There are a lot issues and risks to identify, address and manage. Realignment can be as small as rearranging a few positions and responsibilities or a major realignment of major divisions, along with changes to their operating units, processes and position responsibilities.

Below are guidelines to use for your particular realignment or restructuring implementation.

Document the End Result, Also Benefits and Negative Impacts. Have specific, well documented and understandable (to all constituencies) description of the end result. It should explicitly and clearly state all the changes to occur and the time line for implementation. Also, name those entities, processes, etc. that will not change. Assure all affected employees that they will receive the necessary training and orientation so that they will succeed in their new positions and/or work locations – and follow-through on this commitment.

Benefits and Negative Impacts. It’s important to clearly set forth that the benefits to the entire organization and its customers outweigh the problems that some employees may incur, which could be significant. The description of the benefits and negative impacts should be well crafted and point out pragmatic and realistic results. It has to be more than just “improve efficiency and effectiveness” or “better organization alignment with our core competencies and strategic orientation.”

Also documenting and communicating the challenges and negative impacts is important as you want to proactively communicate them to counter rumors and partial knowledge that will inevitably occur. You are also managing employee expectations.

Assign Responsibility and Authority, Also Necessary Resources. One position should be given responsibility for managing the realignment implementation. The position must have a level of authority that is equal to the responsibilities. If you are undertaking a large realignment consider a project management office or team. Along with the necessary authority and responsibility there must also be easy access to the necessary financial, technology and staff resources to carry out the change.

Have an Implementation Plan. Your implementation plan will lay-out your objectives, actions, timelines, milestones, responsibilities and points in the implementation when you review the status of the realignment implementation – what is going well, not going well and any adjustments to make. Your plan should also state the risks to a successful realignment and how you will monitor and manage these risks, including employees responsible for managing each risk.

Your implementation milestones can also be opportunities to communicate progress and successes to employees, customers and stakeholders.

Orientation and Training. If employees will be reassigned to new operating units and/or positions, give them the necessary orientation to the new operating unit and training if there is a change in their responsibilities. You want them to succeed in their new location as it will have an impact on the success of the realignment.

Prepare Executives and Managers for Transferred Employees. Managers in work units to which employees are being transferred, should receive the necessary help in preparing for the new employees. They should know in advance the names of the new employees, their prior work responsibilities; and needed training and orientation to be successful in their new location. Managers should also be prepared to address anxieties or transition issues that may arise with the new and their current work unit employees. If necessary the organization should support these managers with professional specialists in these areas related to workplace culture and employee performance.

Communicate Directly and In-Person With All Affected Employees Immediately. Before an organization wide communication, and before there is the possibility of rumors, meet with every employee that will be affected – negatively and positively. Describe in detail the realignment (even if they may have already heard about it) and how they will be impacted. This description should be for the entire organization, as well as their particular work units; and delivered verbally and in writing. Providing something in writing can help with their understanding of the realignment and how they communicate it to others. It also helps you to control the message and information you want delivered. In the meetings have time for all questions to be asked and answered.

If it it’s not possible to meet with employees before the public announcement do meet with them immediately after the announcement.

Communicate Frequently. As the realignment progresses keep all employees informed. In these status communications it’s important to describe progress and any problems. This is necessary so that everyone is equally knowledgeable and to counter inaccurate rumors and hearsay that can easily arise, particularly when something is not going according to plan.

Communicate Success. When the realignment is relatively long-term, employees can become disinterested and lose enthusiasm, particularly if they perceive that there is no progress. Communicating success with enthusiasm, maybe in a celebratory way, can motivate everyone involved and encourage them to keep working at it.

Communicate To Your Customers and Stakeholders. You do not want your customers to become concerned that the realignment will negatively impact the services or products you deliver to them. In concert with any internal communications about the realignment inform you customers about the realignment, particularly those customers who will see a change in the employees that deliver the product or service, or with whom they communicate by telephone or email. Hopefully you can inform them that the change will improve the services or products they receive.

High Level Leadership Should Deliver the Information. All communication should come from executives at the highest level of your organization – both the written and in-person communication. This demonstrates the importance of the realignment and allows senior executives to gauge (when the communicating is in person) how employees will cooperate (or not) when the realignment starts.

Before meeting with employees and disturbing documentation senior executives should discuss the changes with managers that are as close as possible to affected employees. You want to make sure that what you say and how you say it is appropriately crafted. These managers can help you with this.

Include Key Executives Early. Include your key executives in the initial considerations of how the realignment will be implemented and monitored. In any event, most of them should have important roles. Do not overlook IT. It may be a critical path for successful implementation. Also, include HR – regarding changes in position descriptions, organization location and titles of affected employees, but also because it may need to get involved should some employees become disgruntled or anxious about the changes.

Empower Employees and Listen to Them. Hopefully you included employees in considering and planning the realignment You should also encourage their input in resolving any implementation challenges, which are inevitable, at all levels of the organization and where you least expect them.

Establish Trust. An organizational realignment can be a time of significant change affecting employee roles and responsibilities, and their status within and outside the organization. There may also be uncertainty about their future roles. Therefore, organization leaders, particularly those directly involved in the realignment, must establish employee trust in their leadership, and also with other employees.

Executives responsible for managing the realignment must demonstrate integrity, reliability, openness, and fairness. This in turn will affect how employees interact with each other. In this type of trust based culture, employees will feel more secure and will be more cooperative with each other and management.

Human Concerns – Resistance to Change and Morale. Change, sometimes even minor organization change, can create uncertainty about the future, and causes fears about a job loss or the ability to succeed in doing something new. During the realignment closely monitor employee morale, interactions, comments and complaints. Take whatever remedial action that is necessary to address these issues which should be taken seriously.

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