Organizational change / change management
Only a small proportion of change efforts succeed, which has led to a variety of change models and methods. In some cases, our change preparation survey may bring success: it finds obstacles to change before they imperil the success of the change effort, and shows employees that the initiative and their support are important.
Resistance and change management
Many managers complain about people resisting change; but the best ways to avoid resistance are also the best ways to motivate people to actively support the change effort. Involving people from the beginning, getting information and views on the issues, clearly telling why the change is needed, and having a clear strategy, direction, and vision are all parts of the process.
It can actually be good when people resist change, if they explain their reasons and if you use their views to refine your own strategies. Knowing you will have to overcome resistance can help to focus and improve your plans. While gathering information to support your case and discussing it with other people, you can improve your vision, anticipate potential problems, and—in some cases—discover that the others are right, and either the change is not the best idea, or that there are better alternatives.
Involving other people also helps to make the change their effort as well as yours. People often won’t care too much about your effort, but theirs will be a priority. The difference between success and failure is often how many have a “this is my project” attitude—which they can get when you involve them. Starting out with a problem, and working with other people to come up with a solution, is often far more effective than proposing and marketing a specific solution. Indeed, pushing change leadership down, using cross-functional and multi-level teams, can solve problems and implement solutions quite well, while giving top managers more free time.
People often do not like change they cannot control. However, if they lead or have a substantial influence on change, they are more likely to embrace it.
Process consulting can help to involve people more in the change effort, increasing commitment while avoiding groupthink issues that can turn off other parts of the organization.
Measurement can track the effects of change throughout the organization for effective follow-through, including pockets of problems. Many successful change efforts can boast of higher productivity and quality, with reduced costs, and no “lost jobs” (even if fewer jobs are needed, many concerns can be eased by making sure people will still have a place in the organization).
Timing can be a reason for resistance; having many initiatives at once diffuses the importance of each of the programs while stretching resources. Most organizations can only deal with one or two major initiatives at a time.
A follow-through survey can find pockets where changes have not been implemented, or have not been implemented well. They are a fast, inexpensive way to ensure success.
One helpful tool, our change preparation survey, can determine in advance where communication and involvement efforts need to be focused, and what change issues people are most concerned with.
Technology and people
Nearly all of the issues in change efforts revolve around people. You can change technologies, but unless people support the new systems, problems are bound to crop up. It is much less expensive to anticipate and work with the social issues than to throw money into systems and clean up the mess afterwards.
There are many cases where companies tried to install new technologies or systems of working without considering the impact on the way people work with each other, or how people at lower levels feel about the changes. The result is usually an expensive failure. Because of this, the best way to bring about change is to first gain the support of the people who will be affected by it, and the people whose support you need to implement it. No matter how good a change seems on paper, if nobody will support it, it's probably not a good idea.
Measurement as an organizational change tool
Measurement (including surveys) can be change tools:
- The data provides evidence that change is needed
- The questions can clarify the purpose of the change by forcing people to consider its specific impacts
- Measurement tells people what you care about
- Tracking the effectiveness of the change as you go both tells people that it is important and provides a way to judge its success; and the results can be used as a justification for future projects
- The measurement effort can be set up as a framework for anticipating and managing other changes, making change seem more controllable and less threatening
Surveys are a good way to build buy-in because:
- If you involve people early and get their feedback later, it builds your credibility
- Surveys provide a way to get everyone involved, including people who don’t normally speak up in public
- The survey event provides an impetus for change (“unfreezing”)
A traditional top down approach doesn’t work as well as cascading feedback action planning sessions, so that people at all levels get their unit’s results and can work with the data and implement solutions at their level.
When done well, surveys can help overcome resistance to change. Think about some of the areas where resistance comes from:
Loss of trust due to past problems: With the survey you can show who you are and that you are trustworthy, by deeds rather than words.
Belief there is no need to change: The survey results will show the need
No way to overcome the inertia of day-to-day events: The survey event itself brings some immediacy and makes change efforts top-of-mind.
Regardless of the type of change, our change preparation survey finds obstacles to change before they imperil the success of the change effort, and shows employees that the initiative and their support are important.
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