To identify where and how any organisational changes need to be made, an organisation’s leadership team will explore questions such as: -
- Do we need to change our mission, vision, overall business strategy?
- Do we need to change our organisational structure?
- Is there new knowledge/expertise we need to bring in, or existing knowledge/expertise we need to better capitalise on?
- Do we need to change/hire different or new people? Do we need to train/retrain/upskill/ multi-skill our existing people?
- Do we need to change our organisational culture & values?
- Do any of our policies, processes, or ways we measure progress/success need to change?
- Does any of our technology or systems need to change?
- . Do any of our products/services (or aspects of – eg. Packaging, labelling, pricing, features) need to change or be replaced? New products/services?
- Does any of our workflow or physical infrastructure/layout need to change so our people and processes integrate well with technology and other organisational changes planned?
- . Will these changes impact our value chain? How?
Some ways to build change readiness capability in the workplace
Organisational leaders and managers can build the change readiness of their people through actions such as:
- Understanding their own role in the process as a change leader/manager
- Role modelling the desired attitudes and behaviours
- Getting employees involved in the change – fostering understanding and conviction
- Developing talent and skills
- Thinking about future issues and opportunities and factoring these into daily decisions
- Making learning and knowledge sharing a part of everyday life
- Actively supporting and encouraging day to day improvements
- Ensuring diverse teams & valuing diversity
- Encouraging mavericks
- Managing paradox
- Fostering innovation, protecting breakthrough ideas and integrating new technology
- Reinforcing changes through formal mechanisms
- Building and deepening trust
- Creating a learning organisation & managing learning as a priority
- Effectively responding to sources of organisational and management/employee stress & ensuring effective support mechanisms/services are in place
Four models of organisational change
This is an oldie but a goodie, published in 1947 by Lewin, one of the pioneers of social and organisational psychology. It is still utilised today because it is easy to explain and understand what is actually quite a dynamic and complex process, particularly when so many organisational changes are imposed on (rather than proposed by) employees.
Unfreezing the status quo – breaking out of strongly patterned ways of viewing and interpreting events, or behaving eg. Developing and communicating a new organisational vision and values, employee participation, preparing employees for the need for change
Failure to unfreeze - Failure to unfreeze is the failure to see. Some employees will find it more difficult to see the need for change. For example, longer term employees or those who haven’t worked in many organisations may say ‘if it ain’t broke why fix it?’ Some people may also have an overly simplistic view of the past and the future, thus limiting their capacity to see different perspectives, ‘world views’, or the ‘big picture’. As well, where employees wish to maintain the status quo they may resist pressures to change. Overcoming the failure to see may be helped by leaders and managers creating a high level of contrast between the ‘old world’ and the ‘new world’, or helping employees see the key differences by creating images. Sometimes confrontation is justified, if change is necessary for survival and resistance is high.
Moving towards the new way of doing things – establishing new ways of understanding and behaving, and implementing the change (influenced by the level of certainty/uncertainty associated with the change, and the magnitude of the change)
Failure to move: Failure to move may result from change uncertainty, outcome uncertainty or requirement uncertainty. It is imperative that leaders and managers (and change agents) are clear about what the future will look like and what will be expected of employees. Training can be invaluable in this regard. The more employees can be involved in the change process, the more accepting they will be of the ‘new world’. Communication is therefore an essential part of any change process. Overcoming the failure to move may be overcome by leaders and managers educating employees about the desired change, clarifying the benefits of the ‘new world’, understanding what it takes to implement change, assessing the level of employee capabilities, and providing training and other tools to assist with the transition.
Refreezing and locking in the new way of doing things – taking actions to prevent reversion to old patterns and reinforce the change until it becomes more established eg. Change to policies, procedures, key performance targets (and what is measured), training, rewards and incentives, celebrating successes, providing support services, being realistic about adjustment time
Failure to refreeze: Failure to refreeze is the failure to finish. Quick wins, new stories and celebrations early are important, but most successful changes have taken anywhere from 7 – 10 years, according to research. The most significant organisational changes do not produce instant, positive consequences, so leaders and managers must be patient, be on the lookout to catch people doing things right, and also address any people/systems issues which arise during the change process, to ensure momentum is maintained. Ongoing communication of the change process is critical, as is acknowledging and having processes in place to manage stress and change fatigue sensitively. It is hard to sustain change over a long period. Overcoming the failure to refreeze may be helped by leaders and managers reinforcing desired behaviours, helping people see the progress of the change and repeating messages often.