“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” —John F. Kennedy
For most people, the notion of change is unsettling to say the least. The possibility of failure may loom large. We may dislike the element of risk involved. Or perhaps, it’s the fear of the unknown that makes us uneasy. Whatever the reason, we tend to be averse to change and cling to what’s familiar and comfortable, even if it no longer serves us well. In our dynamic, fast-paced commercial world, change is a necessary part of success. Embracing new technologies, developing innovative products, and devising original ways of doing things—these are the ingredients that propel businesses to the forefront of their respective industries.
How can your organization more effectively adopt change? To answer this question, we gained valuable insights from Margot Hoerrner, Principal of Rosedale Green, an organizational development consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning, leadership development and facilitation services.
Successful change begins with a blueprint. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Ms. Hoerrner says this quote from Benjamin Franklin is among her favorites. “There are many ways to lead change, but they all require planning,” she says. The foundation lies in the discovery phase: taking a step back and conducting a candid internal assessment of what your organization stands for, what it does well, where it’s falling short, what human capital is available, and what additional resources are needed, for starters. Feedback from external stakeholders is an essential part of this equation, as well. This brass tacks analysis should precipitate any attempt at a major organizational transformation, yet Ms. Hoerrner says that many business leaders miss this crucial step in the process.
The key to effective adaption lies in having a shared “North Star”. Once the discovery phase is complete, it’s time to define aspirational but achievable goals for your organization. Whether you’re seeking to cure cancer or are planning a staff restructuring, it’s important to clearly define your ultimate objective and establish milestones along the way. “What are we committing to achieving, how are we going to get there, and when are we going to do it? Sharing this information throughout the organization acts a beacon,” says Ms. Hoerrner. “When everyone has a shared definition of success and understands the process to accomplish it, you have a strategy that the entire team can get behind.”
Avoid the stumbling blocks. It’s been Ms. Hoerrner’s experience that there are two primary obstacles to effectively moving the change management needle:
- A lack of commitment to implementation. “Without a finish line in place and ambassadors to carry the torch, this wonderful plan will sit on shelf untouched.” Avoid this obstacle by clearly defining milestones, assigning highly engaged representatives to execute and oversee each facet of the plan, and creating a culture of regular reporting.
- Lack of communication. When leaders set out on a course to change something in the organization, everyone has to be a part of it. From the receptionist to the IT manager to the controller, the entire staff can be engaged in the change management process, should be apprised of the plan and fully understand its goals. “All too often, upper management creates these great strategies, but the direction gets lost long before it’s communicated to everyone in the organization. And then the buy-in goes missing, as well.”
Follow these golden rules for change management. “There’s no magic here,” says Ms. Hoerrner. “It’s simply about creating a framework and seeing it through.” As you venture through your journey of organizational change, keep these pointers in mind:
- There is no “one-size fits all” approach. Every company is unique and has its own culture. Think of it as building blocks for your organization where many elements have to come together. What works for the guy down the street may not work for you, so stay true to who you are. Create a tailored approach that suits your firm’s ethos and specific needs.
- Leadership has to own it. Whatever path you take to implement change within your company, it has to come from the top down and become part of the organizational DNA. If you’re in a position of authority, it’s up to you to set the tone for the process, so trumpet your message loud, clear and often.
Change is a crucial component of growth and evolution. “With an effective organizational change management plan in place that’s based on a solid framework, you can facilitate smooth transitions within your company,” says Ms. Hoerrner. “I think one of the smartest things a business can do is to create an in-house strategy department. Having internal capacity in place to design and support change will allow you to respond more quickly and effectively to any situation, good or bad.”
Is your organization ready to face a changing business landscape? The HR Team is here to offer valuable tools and insights to support your efforts and help you streamline the process. Please contact our knowledgeable professionals to learn more.
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