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Leading a Major Organizational Change Initiative: 4 Lessons Learned

Leading a major change initiative in any type of organization is tough work! Achieving expected results within a specified time frame and budget can only be accomplished if employees embrace the change.

This is no small task. But, it can become easier through effective change management.

Here are four key lessons learned by successful leaders of change to keep in mind when planning and implementing change in your organization.

1. Let Employees Know Where They Fit in the Big Picture

Leaders are often focused on the broad strategy behind change. But the people who have to change need more than the organizational perspective. They want to know how the change will impact their work daily.

2. Beware of the “Black Hole”

Between senior management and the workforce, a layer of managers acts as reinforcing sponsors of any change. If they don’t know what to do, or if through their actions or words they undermine the change back in their department, the people below them cannot change. These reinforcing sponsors can act as a black hole, absorbing all the energy coming from the executive office and letting none of it escape to those below them. Senior leaders need to check constantly that their entire management team is aligned with the change and acting effectively to help people change.

3. Negative Attitudes are Contagious

Many changes are “forced” upon organizations due to outside factors and can result in negative attitudes and resistance from employees at all levels – from the executive suite to the front lines. As a result, changes happen slowly, they cost more, and they have to be monitored extensively upon completion to prevent the organization from slipping “back to the old way.”

From the beginning, leadership must determine that change will be managed within an objective framework. That doesn’t mean people don’t get to complain and ask questions. It means they are quickly informed of the reasons and logic behind the change and are constantly encouraged by the sponsor cascade to accept the changes in an objective way and to look for the positive elements in the desired state.

4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Communicate the message until your audience mouths your words along with you. Use company newsletters, intranets, workshops and meetings to communicate key messages to keep people abreast of progress. Always be prepared to answer these three questions:

  • Why can’t we stay in the current state?
  • What will my job, my location, my process, my tools look like during and after the change?
  • How are we going about this change?

Incorporating these lessons into your change will mean that any dip in key measures (e.g. productivity, quality, etc.) during its implementation will be shorter and less severe, with a more successful end result.

Which change, if made today, would help you influence a successful change initiative in your organization?

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