In the business world, change is inevitable. Those that do not adapt to change — be it societal, institutional, technological, or otherwise — are doomed to fail. Adapting to change often requires businesses to implement organizational change; however, this is easier said than done, since most businesses consist of multiple departments, each containing multiple essential roles and processes. With so many moving cogs, it can be difficult to make everything function as a single, well-oiled machine.
That’s where organizational change management comes in. Organizational change management (OCM) can be difficult to define because every organization — and each department within an organization — has its own, often overlapping, view of what constitutes true organizational change. The popular change management solution provider, Prosci, defines OCM as “the discipline that guides how we prepare, equip, and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organizational success and outcomes.”
In order to appreciate what OCM is and why it’s so important, we must first consider the motivating factors behind organizational change and gain a better understanding of why businesses struggle to implement it.
Leading Reasons for Organizational Change
There are many scenarios in which a proactive OCM strategy can help businesses put in place smarter strategies for the future:
- Business mergers and acquisitions often result in the total restructuring of departments to consolidate resources and reduce the number of redundant roles within departments.
- Many businesses operate within tightly regulated industries and are expected to regularly update their internal processes to maintain regulatory compliance.
- As the technological landscape continues to evolve, businesses are expected to adopt the latest and greatest software and systems in order to continue to thrive. New technology implementations require a significant effort to drive user adoption as well as comprehensive user training to ensure that employees use the new systems effectively.
- Failure is a powerful motivator. Any time a business initiative fails, it’s in an organization’s best interest to return to the drawing board, identify where things went wrong, and determine what organizational changes need to be made to guarantee better outcomes moving forward.
- Businesses are under constant and considerable pressure from competitors to reimagine their existing offerings, come up with innovative new ideas, and conceive of ways to maximize their earning potential (sometimes by giving their current business strategy a total overhaul) in order to maintain an edge.
- Sometimes businesses make organizational changes merely for the sake of change. Experimentation can be healthy and can result in the discovery of exciting new opportunities for businesses to grow and evolve.
Common Barriers to Organizational Change
There are some barriers to organizational change that every business should be mindful of when developing an OCM strategy:
- Internal resistance to change: Most people are, to some degree, resistant to change. It’s up to business leadership to convince end users of the immediate value of a change event to them and/or their customers in order to ensure they’re fully on board.
- Ineffective leadership: Speaking of business leadership, organizational change must be implemented from the top down. If the executive team or upper-level management fails to set the right tone for a project or to inspire confidence, end users are unlikely to embrace the change.
- Lack of clear vision: Without a clear direction to follow or specific metrics to define project goals, end users might misunderstand — and fall short of — project expectations.
- Poor communication: Any time a major organizational change is slated to occur, end users are likely to have questions about the why, the when, the how, and so on. OCM best practices [MC1] stipulate that business leaders should communicate clearly and often, lest end users become confused by the process or what the project aims to achieve.
- Project complexity: If a project is unnecessarily complex or convoluted, end users on your team are more likely to become overwhelmed at the thought of implementing organizational change.
- Ineffective training: If end users have no idea how to utilize new systems or follow new processes, they have little hope of ever adopting and embracing organizational changes.
Steps to Changing Your Organizational Culture
Regardless what type of organizational change a business intends to implement or which barriers they hope to overcome, OCM must begin with a clear vision and be implemented from the top down. According to Sarah Jensen Clayton, Executive VP of Employee Engagement & Change Management Practice at Weber Shandwick, “Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future.”
Bearing that in mind, let’s review the steps business leaders should take to increase their company’s organizational readiness for change:
- Before embarking on an organizational change initiative, solicit honest feedback from your employees on existing systems, processes, and business strategy. This feedback should provide perspective on what works, what doesn’t, what changes end users would like to see, and what to expect when implementing organizational change.
- Define your vision. As mentioned above, your vision should be as clear and specific as possible to make it easier for end users to digest. It’s also important to explain to your employees how this change will benefit them in order to further impress upon them the significance of the project.
- Although support from senior leadership is key, leadership can technically come from anywhere within your organization. Identify employees in each department who are business subject matter experts and are respected by their peers and make them designated organizational change champions. These champions can act as your boots on the ground and work closely with other end users to help them better understand the OCM process.
- In addition to communicating the initial vision for the project, regularly check in with end users to ensure that everything is on track and to answer any questions they might have along the way.
- Develop a comprehensive training program — including coursework, educational videos and emails, town halls, and eLearning — to enable end users to use new systems and processes efficiently and maximize your ROI.
- Continue to provide support for end users post-launch to encourage continued adoption and reinforce an organizational culture and change management. Re-evaluate systems and processes on a consistent basis to see which efforts were successful and which areas are still in need of improvement. Make sure you have a roadmap to guide you on system enhancements and base your timing on feedback from end users and management.
Effective organizational change management is vitally important to the continued success of any business. Working with a qualified OCM partner, such as Hitachi Solutions, can make the transition easier. At Hitachi Solutions, we subscribe to the proven Prosci ADKAR Model, which we use to guide our process to drive high adoption for our clients. Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach to change management, we’ll right-size our efforts to suit your business’ specific needs.
If you’re interested in learning more about Hitachi Solutions or our OCM services, talk to one of our Certified Change Practitioners today.