Organizational change, even at the smallest scale, can feel so intimidating that many companies remain stagnant. Unfortunately, stagnation in an organization can lead to loss in market share, higher turnover, and employee dissatisfaction—all undesirable consequences that can be avoided. Although organizational change is not necessarily an easy undertaking, it is possible, and often a rewarding endeavor. Remove some of the fear of change and keep the organization moving forward by following these six steps.
1. Define Your Goals
If it has been a while since you last reviewed your organizational goals, it’s time to take a look with fresh eyes and an open mind. Leadership should be able to name the company’s primary goals and have a deep understanding of the impetus behind them. Similarly, employees should have an awareness of the organizational goals, even if their knowledge about them is not as deep. If it’s time to set some new goals or revamp old ones, the leadership team should work together to define a new path forward and create a clear vision of where they want the company to be.
2. Identify What Needs to Change
After defining the organizational goals, determine what needs to change in the organization in order to meet them. For example, if one goal is to increase revenue by generating more repeat sales, take a close look at the customer experience to learn what is working well and what could be improved. Similarly, if you have identified a lack of productivity as an issue with meeting profit goals, determine what steps must be taken to improve productivity within teams. This might include implementing collaboration software, providing teamwork training, or shifting the culture to prioritize productivity. Every organization is unique, and the changes you need to make will be specific to the company, its goals, and the current state of the business.
3. Share the Vision
You can’t expect employees to change their behavior if they don’t know why they’re doing it. Leaders must share the vision for the organization and communicate with passion in order to generate buy-in. The vision should lay the foundation for every decision that is made on a daily basis, but if people don’t understand it and buy into it, they won’t use it as a reference point. Communicating the vision goes beyond a single announcement; it must be incorporated into the messaging that leadership uses on a daily basis so it becomes ingrained in the culture at every level of the organization. For example, regularly referencing the vision in staff meetings and internal newsletters and during employee reviews keeps it top of mind for everybody.
4. Communicate the Plan
Sharing the vision is just the first step in getting people to change. You must also communicate your plan for getting from the current state to the one that is envisioned. Work with department leaders to create milestones and strategies for achieving them. Make sure every employee knows how they fit into the plan and understands that their actions make a difference. When people know why they are being asked to perform in a certain way, how the business plans to get from Point A to Point B, and what the expected outcomes are, they are more likely to change their own behaviors.
5. Execute the Plan
Sometimes the hardest part of organizational change is not creating the strategy, but actually executing the plan. Identify champions who are excited about the upcoming changes and enlist them to help the team stay on track. This could include leading regularly scheduled training refreshers, sending friendly reminders about upcoming milestones, or intentionally using organizational language that’s in line with the new plan. Ensuring that employees have peers who buy into the direction the organization is headed is critical for turning the tides.
6. Stay Consistent
Even with a healthy dose of initial excitement, day-to-day business can quickly get in the way of organizational change. It’s easy to revert to old systems and habits when daily pressures mount. To help overcome this, schedule periodic check-ins to assess the implementation plan and course-correct as necessary. When training on new content, use a retention strategy to keep it fresh and top of mind. Most importantly, when the goal is organizational change, leadership must stay the course and not revert to the old ways. This is often easier said than done, so make sure leaders have the training they need to stay consistent through an organizational change.
If you’re still fearful of organizational change, think about the risks of not doing it. Can your company survive if the competition continues to evolve? Will you be able to attract and retain top talent with the status quo? Change can be scary, but it is possible if you have a clear plan and a strategy for executing it.