Many business leaders dread the words “change management”. But they don’t have to.
Research shows that 70% of business transformation efforts fail. Many fail due to lack of vision, engagement, communication or accountability. So often, new processes or structures are rolled out without an explanation of the bigger picture. Sometimes changes are rolled out without the infrastructure to support those changes. Communication and application of the changes may be inconsistent. Sometimes new changes are rolled out before previous ones even took hold.
Employees are left scratching their heads. Some might be skeptical about “another change.” Some might even feel threatened or hurt. They don’t understand why the change was needed, and some might not know what they need to do to be successful. For all these reasons, organizational change fails.
Personal and organizational change are interconnected and entwined. You cannot have one without the other. Everyone is accountable for adopting new behaviors on a micro and macro level. Everyone needs to flex and behave differently. But organizational change has to start with leadership – true leadership. Leaders have to create the vision and pave the path. They need to truly understand their business and their people. More importantly, they need to live the change they expect to see, and they need to do it every day.
Organizational change takes hard work and a strategic plan, but when done right, it can be meaningful and lasting. While there is no cookie cutter solution because every organization is different, this guide can help you create a framework for change that has purpose and momentum, and is true to your brand, your organization and the people within it. And remember, the words “Change Management” don’t need to be dirty words.
7 Tips for Creating Change that Lasts
1. Establish a purpose to believe in
Define why change is needed: Make sure everyone within your organization understands the vision, be it a 3- or 10-year plan. It will help them understand what you are all working toward and why change is needed.
- Define what you stand for: Defining your Brand Promise and Position will serve as your North Star as you roll out change. It will ensure you are being true to your brand and what you stand for. You must stay true to the promises you’ve made to your customers. After all, they are the reason you exist. Lastly, make sure everyone within your organization can explain who you are and what you do, no matter what their role.
- Define what it means to be part of the organization: Make sure everyone understands your brand values. That will help them understand how they should carry themselves and which behaviors are on-brand and which are off. For the most part, employees want to do the right thing. They just need to know how.
- Create a rally cry: Sometimes a mission statement isn’t enough. A manifesto goes beyond a declaration of your intent. It’s authentic. It’s emotional. It’s how you inspire your employees and customers. It’s how you get them to identify with your brand and where you’re going.
2. Ask the tough questions
For positive change to truly take hold, you have to first ask yourself the tough questions. Is your organization ready for change? What barriers stand in the way? Are those barriers cultural? Or do you need to make changes to your operations or infrastructure? How are you going to remove those barriers? Unless you address those barriers, any transformation you try to roll out will just be putting lipstick on the pig.
3. Lead by example
“Do as I say, not as I do” will not fly. Change is unsettling, and staff will look to their leaders for direction and support. Leadership needs to make sure they are modeling the desired changes, and it needs to start from the top down. Make sure you understand the needs and concerns of your team. How will the changes affect their day-to-day activities? Make sure you’re modeling success and help them create a framework for their own success.
4. Tell them, then tell them again, and again
You cannot take a one and done approach. Change takes time. You have to communicate with staff clearly, openly and regularly. Look for ways to incorporate town hall meetings, company newsletters or emails into your change management plan. Reinforce your vision, values, brand behaviors and core messaging. And make sure you’re highlighting success stories.
5. Create ownership and accountability
Change can only happen if everyone is accountable. Make it personal, and give staff some ownership. Ask everyone how he or she will contribute to moving the organization forward. Work with staff to create individual and team action plans, measure their success, and hold them accountable to their action plans. Make sure employees see and understand how their role and actions fit within the bigger picture.
6. Recognize and Reward Positive Behaviors
When you ask people to adopt a new process or behavior, it’s vital to acknowledge their successes. Bonus points if you can reward their actions. If everyone is following an action plan, you should be able to track positive outcomes. You can also tie recognition to your company’s values and goals. Sharing success stories shows employees you appreciate their hard work, and it also shows others what they can strive for.
7. Make it human
Last but not least, your change management plan should be human. Rolling out change can and should be strategic and systematic, but you can’t forget that people are at the center of your organizational change. Your people are your most important asset. Make sure you don’t lose sight of that. Change is scary, and there are human issues and emotions at stake that need to be considered and valued. For the most part, everyone wants to do a good job and provide value. They just need to know how. Be flexible and remember the softer side of the changes you’re rolling out.
Janee Wolf is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Core Creative.