Engaging workplace change can be an unpredictable experience because processes and people evolve in diverse ways as they undergo change. No two individuals will respond in exactly the same way to workplace changes. In the same way, identical changes implemented in multiple areas of an organization can produce distinctly different outcomes. However, change can be an important catalyst for helping an organization achieve its mission.
These tips show you how to stay on top of the change engagement process by thoroughly preparing for it, while allowing for various outcomes. These tips allow you to take a structured approach to organizational change and still maintain flexibility.
Motivation for Change
Change begins at the point where the organization finds a motivation for change. Sometimes external issues drive the change, like reorganizations or management changes. Other times, internal forces such as upgraded technology or the need for continuous improvement drive the change.
Analyze the Situation
As the organization becomes progressively more motivated to change, leadership undertakes a thorough analysis of the risks and opportunities associated with the proposed change:
- What are the potential gains in undertaking the change?
- What are the costs?
- What are the risks of making the change?
- What are the risks of not making the change?
Plan the Direction
Once an organization determines that opportunities outweigh the risks of making the change, it develops a plan for change implementation. Many organizational change initiatives fail because of lack of careful, thorough planning. In this step, the stage is set for the ultimate success or failure of the change. Key elements of the plan must include:
- Planning for the impact of the change on individuals who will be most affected.
- Planning for the impact of the change on the systems within the organization that will be most affected.
- A step-by-step plan for integrating the change into the organization.
- A review plan to measure the success of the proposed change.
Implement the Change
Depending on the type and scope of the change, implementation within the organization may be gradual or abrupt. Changes such as layoffs often are implemented with little prior warning; while staffing, reorganization, or technology changes may be phased in over a period of time. The team’s most critical role in this step of the change process is to maintain open, honest lines of communication with each other.
- Define individual responsibilities.
- Announce and launch the change.
- Adhere to timetables.
- Promote the anticipated benefits of the change.
Review the Direction
Once the change has been implemented in the organization, you should monitor the outcomes of the new structure and system. As team members in this dynamic work environment, you can’t assume that the change will evolve exactly as planned or that every individual affected will react as anticipated. Your role is to observe review checkpoints that will reveal whether the change is working as anticipated and is producing the desired results.
- Establish ways of measuring results.
- Communicate criteria for successful change outcomes.
- Coordinate the gathering and measuring of change effects.
- Inform key team members consistently during the review process.
When you have reviewed the change implementation and found it to be succeeding as planned, the organization adopts the change and it becomes part of the new organizational norm. The review process is not terminated, but it transitions to the ongoing monitoring of the changed systems and relationships within the organization.
- How well is the change meeting planned outcomes?
- How well have I adjusted to the new status quo?
- What aspects of the change have not met expectations?
- What is my role in making those aspects more successful?
If the review process concluded that the change is not working as planned, you should adjust the change implementation. Assuming that the organization executed the change analysis and plan accurately, you should be able to adjust the implementation of the organizational change to achieve your desired results.
- Determine where the outcomes are falling short of your plan.
- Engage key individuals in determining adjustments that need to be made.
- Keep the lines of communication open with everyone involved.
- Make adjustments to the review process and to the change implementation.
For more information on managing change in the workplace, check out Dale Carnegie’s Change Management Guide