Change is essential for organizational growth. And continuous change is desired, provided it is not chaotic. Continuous does not mean chaotic; although unfortunately it often ends up being that way.
Change efforts become chaotic when…
These are just a few reasons why change becomes chaotic.
When this happens, change fatigue sets in and/or the fear of change takes hold. The organization stops changing because employees won’t accept change. Change is chaotic. Change is frightening. Change always fails. Eventually the organization cannot thrive and compete and does not survive.
Rather, leadership’s goal is to enable for, encourage and support continuous, but not chaotic, change.
To enable for continuous change, think about planning for change as part of your strategic planning process. Change is aligned to achieving a combination of short-term and long-term goals. What better time to think about change that is needed than when you are doing your strategic planning? Have a business problem to be solved as part of achieving a goal, what changes need to be made to solve the problem? Have goals focused on development of new products or services? What changes need to be made to support the development and implementation of those new products or services?
When thinking about change that needs to happen, think about…
If we consider change along with everything else getting done in the organization, we’ll make better decision as to whether it is the right time to launch the change. Maybe we need to hold off, or maybe we can break the change down into smaller components and begin slowly. A good change, launched at the wrong time, risks failure.
Better thought and planning around change overall enables for change to be launched that is not chaotic. Employees aren’t stressed and frustrated. Regularly incorporate change planning into your strategic planning efforts and you’ll soon find regular, continuous change is a common occurrence in the organization.
Maybe the better question is, is anyone ever ready for change? We experiencing change in our lives regularly – whether it is work-related change or change in our personal life. Some change we drive ourselves and therefore we are ready. Other change may not be by our choice or may happen sooner than we prefer it to. In these cases, we may not be ready and, rather, may balk against that change.
People who are ready for change, or better prepared for change when they are faced with the prospect of it, have these characteristics:
How about you? Are you ready for change? If you aren’t immersed in it now; it’s coming! We can always count on change.
One of Abudi Consulting Group's client’s wanted to engage their employees in change. This mini case study shares that story.
For this brief story, I’ll use the exhibit below.
The client is a retail organization that had changed leadership at the top. The new CEO and other newly-hired top executives had experience engaging employees in change and knew the value in doing so. Once the original vision of the change that was being proposed was shared with employees, Abudi Consulting Group, working in collaboration with the CEO and his team, requested the employees’ feedback. Given the complexity of the change, we allowed for three weeks in having conversations about the change in order to get feedback from employees. We provided employees with a variety of options to provide feedback, including via:
With so many channels to share their ideas, concerns, thoughts and suggestions, we got more feedback than we could have imagined! Employees shared information about the change proposed as well as the vision for the change. Through the employees’ insights and contributions, Abudi Consulting worked with the executive leadership team to reframe the change initiative. We incorporated many of the ideas of the employees as well as addressed the concerns that they had.
The end result was a change initiative that was, effectively, shaped by the employees.
This is just one client story Gina shares in her book. Want to learn more? Purchase Gina’s book, Implementing Positive Organizational Change: A Strategic Project Management Approach, J Ross Publishing, 2017.
Changing the Minds of Employees in Finance
I was working with a mid-size professional services firm that was implementing a new financial system. The CFO asked me to work with him to help him manage this project with his team, with a focus on managing communications and change. He had a project manager who would be managing the day-to-day of the project.
In initial conversations with the CFO, I learned the following:
The CFO realized that simply because the executive team supported the project and were ready to change financial systems, it was not sufficient. He needed to buy-in from the financial and payroll team in order to ensure the move to the new system was a successful one. He also noted that the project was officially kicking off within a few months and he wanted to be sure that a good number of the finance/payroll team were on board – even if not all of them were.
Further conversations with the CFO revealed the following:
We scheduled an initial department meeting with finance/payroll. Our goal was to share initial information about the project with a focus on benefits to both the organization in implementing a new financial system and to the individuals in finance/payroll. We needed the group to understand what was impacting this change and how their support was needed to ensure the initiative was successful. We also held a product demo so that the department members could see the new system “in action.”
The initial meeting went well; feedback was positive overall. The group understood the issues faced (the problem we were solving for) and seemed interested in the demo they saw. Some great questions came from the group!
We asked the group to spend some time digesting what they saw and heard in the meeting and that we would be setting up a subsequent meeting to talk further about the project and how we would like them to be involved. We asked them to put together any questions about the initiative that we could address at the next meeting.
The Second Meeting
The second meeting with the group was well attended, everyone made time on their calendar and attended the meeting. This was a good sign! We knew we still had a few resisters, but we also knew that they were interested enough to show up!
We took the first hour of the meeting to answer questions about the product being selected which had been submitted to us after the first meeting. We also knew there would be other questions that would arise. We had the vendor in attendance so that we could be sure to provide answers to all questions at that time and need no, or little, follow up. We knew that the quicker we could get people what they needed, the sooner we could increase their comfort level and move forward on the project.
After the demo at the first meeting, it was apparent that individuals in the room were excited about the possibilities of the new financial system. Certainly it would make their job easier and that was apparent to everyone. Even the individuals who implemented the system being replaced seemed excited, though we still knew we had to win them over.
Once all questions were answered, we focused our conversation on the need for participation on the project in a number of areas:
Everyone wanted to participate in some way; although we knew that some simply wanted to participate to maintain a feeling of control. That was fine with us. As long as we could get them to participate, we knew that we could eventually get them to come along and support the project. By participating on the project, they would feel that they had some control over what was happening rather than idly sitting by and waiting for the project to be rolled out.
We set up a preliminary resource grid as follows (shows key responsibilities):
Other members of the payroll and finance functions would also be involved in the project, participating as needed in meetings and workshops related to the new system rollout and supporting the core project team members. The individuals in the table above, however, would be actively involved in the project and participating on a day-to-day basis – they were members of the core project team. They represented a variety of backgrounds, experiences and longevity with the company.
In summary – our introductory meeting with these individuals enabled of us to begin to establish a working relationship with them and get them engaged in the project. This second meeting enabled for continuing that relationship building and getting members of finance and payroll involved in the day-to-day work of the project, thereby increasing their commitment to the project. We knew that as they began to work on the project, their commitment would continue to increase and they would become our project champions – engaging others in their functions in the project and pushing to its success.
Having regular conversations around change enables for creating a learning mindset – a mindset where employees appreciate, desire and engage in change. When we change, we are learning – we are growing, adapting, getting better. We want to create this mindset so that employees are more comfortable with change, within continuously improving and moving forward.
Regular conversations around change enable for increasing adaptability to change and an increased acceptance of change when it does occur. When working with clients to discuss how to launch conversations around change our goal is to enable employees to look at change from a positive perspective, an opportunity to do something new, different and exciting. It is, obviously, much more difficult to embrace change when the organization is in panic mode; rather – if we think of change as continuous evolving and improving – it becomes easier to accomplish.
Telling stories around change appeals to the emotional side of change – which is what helps employees to connect with and embrace change. The rational side – charts, statistics, graphs, financials, etc. – is important; we need that to stay competitive and ensure profitability – but that is not what helps employees to embrace change. As humans, we connect with the emotional side of change.
When we begin the conversations around change early on, we…
As part of regular monthly meetings with his entire team, one of Abudi Consulting Group’s client’s manager, Alexander, always poses a question that will explore the need to change. Just prior to his last meeting, Alexander asked the team how the department might better collaborate with another group that had just expanded their head count by 50 new hires. Alexander reminded his team that as the other group grew in headcount, it would impact the informal way his team had worked with them in the past. By asking this question, Alexander was pushing his team to look at their current in-place formal and informal processes and to refine them to continue to work effectively with their peers.
Consider how you might engage your employees in conversations around change. What questions might you pose? Here are a few to get you started…
These are just a few ideas to improve your next organizational change initiative. Want to learn more? Check out my book, Implementing Positive Organizational Change: A Strategic Project Management Approach, J Ross Publishing, 2017.