Updated: May 24
Organizational change initiatives are normal in everyday business and take place in companies all over the world. They cover a wide field of different topics like organizational transitions, the implementation of new business strategies, the implementation of new technology, or necessary adjustments in the business processes.
In all change management projects, it is important to have a strategic vision for change, to define the desired outcomes, and to focus on specific goals. Therefore, a structured approach is needed to achieve a successful implementation.
But let's first focus on the vision and goal for change management.
Vision & Goal of Organizational Change Management
On the one side, setting up a vision and a goal for your change initiative means that you must keep your actual organizational culture in mind, and on the other side, focus on the steps for organizational change management.
Why is that important?
Change management projects have always to deal with the culture of the organization. The culture contains aspects like the company brand, the company strategies and rules, the visible aspects of the company (for example the building), and the invisible aspects of the company (how employees and leaders act, the unwritten rules of the company).
As a change project focuses on specific goals, it is also clear that the rest of the company will stay the same. So, only a part of the company is going to change.
Therefore, successful organizational change must be connected to different aspects of change management:
Business, processes, customers, employees, senior leaders & executive leaders (the upper management), culture, new skills, behaviors, or business practices.
Strategic Change and The Status Quo
As change management is always complex, it is necessary to look at the actual status and analyze the organizational readiness for change. Change readiness can be translated as the ability to deal with change and to change easier.
The change management process consists of different steps.
First, you should focus on strategic change as it will deliver you the vision, the goal, the desired outcome, and different analyzes.
Furthermore, it is very helpful to keep other changes in mind, which were carried out successfully.
If your brain has an anchor point in the past (the successful change), then it will help you to succeed in a future change process. And you should imagine that it is an advantage to have a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset. It makes a huge difference in the daily change process if your employees have a growth mindset. Those people will make a significant impact on the change initiatives and can help you to motivate people affected by the change. In most change processes, those employees work as a volunteer army.
Scope & Aspects of Change Management Process
The scope and aspects of changes can shift from change to change and can sometimes be very challenging. So, before acting, it is always a good idea to analyze if there is discomfort to change in your organization and to decide how you can deal with the change.
Other important aspects that influence the change management process are:
Short term wins
Because change management initiatives can take place in all forms of companies, change gets even more complex. The more complex a change management project is, the more time you need for the proper planning of the change management initiative. Types of organizational change can be:
Changes in the leadership style
M & A
But you should also discuss other aspects of the project scope like
Who is the change leader?
How are you supporting employee engagement?
What should the change management process look like?
When will you set up the communication plan?
Who are your stakeholders?
What is necessary to achieve sustainable change?
What does effective change management for your organization look like?
In conclusion, we can say that implementing change needs aspects of strategy and project management to be successful and that you need key performance indicators to measure your efforts.
Operational change is carried out on the organizational level and focuses on the action stage.
Operational change takes care of the entire organization or at least of the parts of the organization affected by the change.
Organizational change management needs change agents who are leading change. That means that your organization needs people and in the best case, your employees who focus on the change initiative.
Encourage Your Employees
Employee engagement is very important for successful change management as those people will multiply their experiences of the change management project.
To achieve your desired change, you can use these multipliers to inform your employees. This will help your change management process to be efficient.
Typical Jobs of Change Agents
Change agents can be employees of your own company, or external consultants. In the best way, you have a mixture of both groups in your change management project.
Internal change agents know the company, the processes, the structure, and the problems. They should be motivated to support the change management process, should be aware of the current processes, and should understand what the business needs are.
External change agents have a great knowledge of project management, best practices in change management projects, effective organizational change management, and of course, effective communication.
The combination of both groups will help to achieve a successful organizational change.
Manage Your Change Project
Managing change also means that you must set up a change project. Successful change needs different aspects of change management to reach the desired outcome and you cannot expect that people will just change.
It always depends on the level and complexity of the organizational change and the change readiness of your organization. If you are on a low level of change readiness, you cannot expect that your entire employees and your entire organization will change in some weeks or months.
People are used to their day-to-day business routines, and it takes time for the change effort to take place.
You should also be aware that you need specific change management skills. Those skills should be related to your business environment. Knowledge is always helpful when managing organizational change. It is just a fact that change projects often have a comparable scope. If the scope is comparable and you also have practical knowledge of implementing a change management model, you will normally be on the right track.
But it is important in every change management project to be aware of every aspect of the organizational change. If we assume that the project in this company will exactly run as our project in the last company, massive problems can arise.
The operational change also has to focus on change leadership.
Who is responsible for the change?
Who is the change leader?
What kind of change leadership experience your employees every day?
Do your change leaders and the change leadership style fit together?
How strong is the deviation from the current to the future leadership style?
Leadership can be very different in different companies. For example, if a company uses the Managerial Grid of Blake & Mouton, you could have five different types of leadership in an organization. And if we take a look at Mintzberg's managerial roles, leaders have to act in 10 different roles:
8. Disturbance Handler
9. Resource Allocator
From my point of view, the most important part is "What are employees allowed to do?" Or in other words: what are the roles of the employees?
Shall they only do a 9 to 5 job? Or is it important for a company to support them in managing change and in supporting the change management process?
If you only see your employees as cheap 9 to 5 workers, you can't expect that they have a growth mindset. But if they have a fixed mindset, why should they change?
The way your employees are allowed to act and participate in the further development of your company massively influences the style of leadership. If you want your employees to participate, then you also need a leadership style that fits.
Managing Change Step by Step
Transformational change needs to be performed constantly. This also applies to any form of change initiative. Make sure that you have a team of people which
is taking care of the change management project,
is staying in touch with the key stakeholders,
is available to answer upcoming questions.
If your employees have the feeling that they are just a number like in most service hotlines, then you can rest assured that many forms of resistance will arise.
Forecast Of Resistance To Change Projects
The following model describes how possible resistance in change management projects can be predicted.
If a project of change is planned, you can try to estimate in advance whether and to what extent resistance is to be expected. The following list of questions could be used:
Are there objective disadvantages in monetary (salary losses) or non-monetary form (e.g. status losses)? If this is the case, strong resistance must be expected. This resistance will be active and verbal. There is also a risk that qualified employees will leave.
Are the change restricting freedoms that employees previously had? For example, new regulations or standardization in areas where previously every employee could design processes independently. If the autonomy is reduced, resistance is also to be expected.
Are external consultants involved in the project, or are new employees or managers brought in from outside? If this is the case, you should assess to what extent these externals or newcomers differ from the existing staff in appearance, language, dress, background experience, views, etc. The greater the differences, the greater the resistance.
Are there people among the affected employees or in middle management who have already tried to prevent changes in the past? Such "brakemen" are usually well known. Whether resistance from them is significant or not depends on their social position. Therefore, identify potential "brakemen" in advance and assess which other people they have close ties to.
Built up everything graphically as a so-called sociogram. Draw arrows from the persons concerned to the people in the environment. The direction indicates an influence; the thickness of the arrow indicates the strength of the influence. The graphic illustration often reveals new insights and helps to adjust to the resistors or to counteract them preventively - but not by "punitive actions".
Successful Change Management
Successful change management is always a mix of strategic change management and operational change management supplemented by the perception of the current situation of the company. You can't focus on just one aspect. Otherwise, you will miss your goal.
Strategic Perspective - Vision & Goals - What should be achieved?
Operational Perspective - Change project - What are we doing to change?
Tactical Perspective - Overview - Is change happening? How can we measure that? What must be our next steps due to the analysis?
Change management processes should always focus on the improvement of an organization as it should not be your interest just to start a change initiative and miss the goal. You should also concentrate on building up the organization’s readiness for change. This will help you in future change projects and speed up change efforts.
Focusing on change readiness also means focusing on the growth mindset of your employees and leaders, becoming a learning organization, and communicating in a trustful and open-minded way.
So, there are many different aspects of an ongoing change initiative you must take care of.
What does facilitating change mean?
A facilitator is a person who helps a group of people to work together better, understand their common objectives, and plan how to achieve these objectives, during meetings or discussions.
He helps and supports the group so that they can work independently. He establishes the framework for action and shows ways of shaping the group. He challenges the group and involves the entire group in the process. He visualizes, makes sure that the rules are followed, and encourages consensus building.
He has a professional self-image and is always non-judgmental. When he intervenes, he does that from a questioning perspective. He is flexible and goes along with the group to achieve the best possible result. He pays attention to the topic, goal, and benefit and observes the principles of topic-centered interaction.
And a facilitator must jump into different roles like supporter, manager, motivator, or servant.
The same applies to change leaders and change agents. Successful change initiatives need successful change leaders, as successful change is not happening by accident.
Due to that, you should always be aware that you must wear different hats in change management. But are you able to do that?
Roles of Change Agents
Typical roles of a change agent are change leader, facilitator, coach, manager, supporter, and analyst. That also means you must adjust in no time from one meeting to another. One time you are the responsible change leader for the project team, and in the next meeting, you are the analyst who must explain why the employees of a company are acting in a specific way.
And yes, in the next moment, you must move into the role of facilitator when discussing specific strategic change topics and how the change plan must be adopted.
Facilitating change takes care of all these perspectives and helps you to see and act in change management initiatives from different perspectives. Furthermore, you should be aware that digitization leads to digital facilitation. Setting up digital whiteboards and facilitating a video conference is different from in-person facilitation. I don't want to say it is better. It is just different. Both forms have their pros and cons, and you need to be able to facilitate change in every environment.
Facilitating change must take care of the organizational culture. Is the company more traditional or is it normal to use digital whiteboards and agile forms of facilitation? As a facilitator, you also have to take care of the audience of the meeting. It is a difference if you are talking to the board members or the employees.
And you also have to keep in mind that aspects of gender, ethnicity, and regional culture are very important.
The culture of a company is always different, because companies are built up in different ways, have different employees, different rules and regulations, different leadership styles, different markets, different structures, different brand properties, and different ways of communication.
All these aspects influence the culture of a company. And if you want to change the culture of a company, you need to realize that it will be a long-term change.
Coaching & Change Management
Change management can affect many different aspects of an organization.
If we look from an abstract perspective, then change initiatives dealing with:
Different organizational levels - entire organization | department | team | leader or employee | M & A
Different forms of change - cultural change | organizational change | digital change | personal change
Different mindsets - growth mindset | fixed mindset
Different forms of goals - internal goals | external goals
Reasons to Change
As described above, you and any person affected by the change need a reason to reach out for the goal. In other words, we need awareness of change and the desire for change. But what if your employees or leaders don't have the necessary awareness and desire?
What Is In For Me?
People affected by the change have to understand "What's in for me?". If there is an organizational change project and people don't understand why they should change, what the change means for them, and "What's in for them?", they won't understand why they should change.
That will lead to the situation that you won't be able to reach the desired outcome. So, your change initiative will probably fail.
Analyze Your Change Project
A better way is to analyze the status quo and to see where your employees and leaders are standing at the moment. People who have a high change readiness will surely adapt to change. People who have a medium change readiness will also change when they understand the need for change. So, we can state that we have at least two groups that will survive the change and start thinking in another way.
But what is with the people who have a low change readiness? Do you have the time to take care of every employee with a low change readiness?
In or Out?
Normally, you will start to analyze this group of employees and leaders. Which of them is important for the company and who might be a candidate to replace them?
But replacing an employee or leader is never for free. I think that you know exactly what amount of money it costs to replace an employee or leader.
And sometimes, it is not even a question of money. If a person has a deep knowledge of specific processes and you need him or her to produce your products successfully, you can't replace him as this person provides you competitive advantage. So you need another strategy.
Perhaps it might be a better way to start a coaching session with the people you need.
Coaching in Change Management
Coaching is result and solution orientated and is a support process tailored to individual needs. It helps to optimize human potential by identifying development needs and promoting them from a value-added, future-orientated perspective.
Furthermore, coaching helps you to reach organizational change readiness as it takes care of those people who don't have a growth mindset now. Coaching can also be a good choice for a senior leader having a hard time with change.
If people have a change resistance, a coach can also support them in understanding the peoples' sites of view. What are their fears? Why are people against change initiatives? What would be helpful for them? Are those people still supporting your company?
Coaching can help you to get answers to these questions.
Let's talk about the role of the coach as I think it is very important to have a coach who is acting on a professional level.
The Role of The Coach
The coach must be able to create an empathic & positive atmosphere. The relationship between the coach and the client is important for being successful. The coach must reduce clients' fears through good contracting (roles, contexts, do’s, and don'ts). That also means that we need a specific goal for the coaching. Is it the same goal as in the change management initiative? Or is it a different one?
The coach must use methodologies that help the clients in working out and achieving specific goals. He must be able to analyze and understand specific situations and adapt to the needed actions. Therefore, he must have a huge set of different methodologies.
The coach must be able to perceive emotions, reflect them appropriately and give resonance as he is the one that supports the client in achieving his goals. The coach must also be able to structure the coaching process and track the goal by using specific tools.
The coach must work continuously on the coach-client relationship and view the whole process from a here & now, and a meta position.
And the coach must focus on the client's goals and the change goal.
So, if your job is to choose a specific coach, you must be aware that he can perform at an outstanding level.
In A Nutshell
A successful change initiative consists of many different aspects. As a change agent, you must take care of the whole change initiative in the organization. Effective change management focuses on the status quo, the goal, and the operational and strategic perspectives to achieve success. If your change management processes don't work in the desired way, then it could be that you are focusing on the wrong aspects of change or that you are just ignoring some aspect of change. Facilitating, changing and coaching can help you to find the solutions to reach your change goal.
If you have any questions, contact us!