It is interesting to observe that major organizational change has something in common with snakes – it arouses aversion and even fear in a significant majority of people. Particularly in large organizations with well-established ways of doing things, planning and managing large-scale change is an undertaking that must be handled carefully and strategically.
The prospect of change does more than simply arouse ancient survival responses in the human brain. Practical discomfort accompanies the thought of leaving long-mastered tools and work processes behind and being forced to spend time and effort learning new ones.
Yet the modern, digital-era workplace can be the site of constant change. To remain competitive, every enterprise must stand prepared to demonstrate agility in adjusting tools, workflow, team structure, product, marketing approach and more. Few and fortunate are those who can afford to rest on their laurels and simply cruise well-worn pathways.
An example of typical technology-driven change is transitioning from older project management methods revolving around Excel, ERP systems, paper, and email to a new system powered by a cloud-based unified project and resource management toolset like this one. The challenges presented go beyond simply learning a new software tool. Changes in work processes, resource management strategies, and the modes and means of inter-team relationship and communication will have organization-wide effects.
Dr. John Kotter is a Harvard professor, thought leader in organizational transformation, and best-selling author on leading change. His award-winning 8-Step Process for Leading Change has been decades in development and is based on observation of leaders and organizations working to transform their strategies.
In Step 4, Kotter notes that change leaders need to enlist a volunteer army. Driving successful large-scale change hinges on getting large numbers of people aboard with you and rallying around the common opportunities represented by the planned change. To this end, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Establish the Vision
Clearly explain the planned change and the rationale behind it. Make sure employees know where the organization is today and where you propose to be tomorrow. Emphasize the importance of change to the organization, highlight potential positive impacts on people’s careers, and describe the metrics by which successful change will be measured.
- Build a Coalition of Early Adopters
Your management team should be among the first on board. Involve them from step one so they have detailed knowledge of the new system’s potential impacts on existing workflows. Chances of failure drop precipitously when leaders can model change in a confident and positive manner.
- Make Change Easy
While working to bring managers and other guiding coalition members up to initial speed, develop and refine effective approaches to training. Create step-by-step instructions, tutorials, rules, FAQ lists, and how-to documents. De-emphasize hierarchies and lay the foundations for a flat communication network. Encourage feedback from all quarters and be sure to let people know their input is valued.
Making Change Your Organization’s Strongpoint
Diminish the challenges associated with getting everyone bought-in to change by treating the process as a task to be addressed in an organized fashion. Apply project planning and management paradigms to the work of change leadership. You will achieve the initial wins that create a culture where change is not only eminently doable but perceived and embraced as a source of advantage.