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Help Your Team Survive (and Thrive) During Organizational Change

Posted by | August 3, 2015 | Career, Change, Workplace

Via LinkedIn : Mastering change is critical for healthy organizations. Yet, achieving needed change remains one of the most difficult challenges to scale. One aspect we fail to consider, is that change also serves as a significant inflection point for our employees. It ultimately affects key elements of their daily work lives and can impact how they ultimately serve their customers. This is often overlooked by organizational leaders — and there are missed opportunities to help employees move through change confidently.

Offering clear direction concerning how the initiative will affect their work is necessary. This will not only help the change “gel” behaviorally, but can contribute to the overall success of the change initiative. In many cases, we leave our teams to muddle through and “translate” the change behaviorally on their own — a very difficult task. If not specifically discussed, the behavioral default may run counter to the spirit of the initiative.

As a result, many change efforts meet with limited success. Many fail completely.

As we contemplate a change initiative, we forget to offer strategies that reinforce change. Then, as time goes on — the organization struggles to evolve. We lose momentum and the efforts fail.

To avoid this dynamic, we have to examine the elements that contribute to the “gray areas” and address them completely.

Here are just a few topics to consider. (Feel free to add to the list).

  • Remember that change takes time. Nothing valuable change-wise is a quick fix — and overall we tend to underestimate the time it takes to realize gains. In many cases, we’ve not fully discussed the importance of the long-term impact and the difficulties getting there. As a result, we can erroneously expect a quick change.
  • Aggressively support communication. Leadership must adequately communicate the vision for the change, their strategy, and how it will affect not only the organization as a whole, but the actual work at hand. Additionally, we must monitor the continued strength and success of that message. My motto is to start early and aim to over-communicate.
  • Provide a behavioral “vision”. It’s one thing to state that your organization should change — it’s another to help guide your staff to behave in ways that support that change. Give them a clear idea as to what they should be doing on an everyday basis. Redefine processes, procedures and training, so they support (not undermine) the desired change. (Note: Many obstacles will rear their ugly heads after the change initiative begins. Be responsive and act quickly to resolve the issues.)
  • Address the inevitable cultural shift. A change in direction often signals the need for a change in mindset. This process takes time — and everyone processes at differing speeds. Some people will self-select out of the organization. That is completely fine — in fact, it may be wise to facilitate, not fight their departure.
  • Check protective mechanisms. Like muscle memory, there will be a tendency to shift back to old ways. Often we’ve not crafted a safe place for team members to address their doubts openly, and process. Be sure to set up channels to do so. (It can be helpful for influencers to respond to questions at a granular level.)

Have you seen a change effort fail in your workplace? What went wrong? What did you learn? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is Senior Consultant at Allied Talent and brings The Alliance Framework to organizations.

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