Change isn’t easy for individuals or organizations. It’s human nature to fear change, even if that change might be positive. Most people would rather deal with the reality they know and love (or hate) than take a risk on something new. Unfortunately, a lack of change long-term leads to stagnation. Companies that want to innovate and stay relevant need to push through successful organizational change on a fairly regular basis. Organizations that never change will have trouble sustaining growth and may even lose market share over time.
But if you’re pushing for organizational change, it’s important to understand that you will get pushback. The impulse to maintain the status quo is strong, and you will have to make a persuasive case for why change is necessary each and every time you roll out a new initiative. Here are some tips for ensuring successful organizational change.
Know the “Why” Behind the Change
Even though change is necessary for long-term organizational success, change for change’s sake is never a good thing. You need to think through the changes you want to make in order to minimize risk and to avoid wasting time and resources. In some ways, the natural human distrust of change is a good thing—it will force you to consider any change you want to make with skepticism and help you weed out any ideas that might cause more harm than good.
One question to ask yourself when evaluating a potential initiative is simple but important: why? Why is this change necessary? What will it accomplish? How does it align with the organization’s values and long-term goals?
Asking yourself these questions will help you evaluate your initiative and will give you talking points for getting buy-in from the rest of the organization. Always start with “why”!
Plan for Change Before It’s Needed
Knowing that change is necessary for the health of any organization is very helpful. It will allow you to plan for future changes well in advance. A good example of this would be beginning to train someone to take over a pivotal role in the organization long before the current leader is ready to step down.
You need to be realistic. Changes that are made in haste will often have poor outcomes. Anticipate the need for change before you really need to so you can make detailed plans and ensure a smoother rollout when the time comes.
Communication Can Help Align All Company Employees on Change
People like to feel included. When your employees feel respected and informed, they will be much more likely to get on board with any organizational changes. That’s why communication and transparency are so important.
When you’re initially discussing potential changes, that discussion won’t include the whole company. But the sooner you can inform the entire workforce of upcoming changes and communicate in a positive way, the better. They will need some time to adjust their mindset and understand their role in the new initiative.
Aligning employees with a shared vision for change is powerful. Your initiatives will be much more successful if you can get buy-in from people at all levels. Ask for their input. Invite questions, concerns, and other feedback. Ask what changes employees would like to see. Making change a transparent and collaborative process can make a huge difference in the long run.
Identify What Metrics Will Help You Track a Successful Shift
Organizational change doesn’t stop at implementation. You will need to monitor the progress of the rollout and track the performance of the initiative on an ongoing basis. By tracking project-specific metrics, you’ll be able to see the ongoing impact of the change on the organization.
To do this, you’ll need to identify the metrics that are most relevant to the project. How will you know if the change has been implemented successfully? What would failure look like? Just as important as monitoring success is learning the indicators that you might need to make adjustments.
It’s not easy rolling out organizational changes. But like many challenging things, it’s a worthwhile effort that can pay off in the end. If you want to see lasting growth, happy employees, and a business that can survive in any economy, you need to learn how to spearhead and manage successful organizational change.
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.