Anyone who has raised children knows that routine is an essential part of any household. Indeed, as much as children love surprises, whether or not they realize it, they also love routines. When routines are broken, the consequences can range from minor protest to total dysfunction. For this reason, parents frequently spend a great deal of time keeping established patterns in place (e.g., set mealtimes and bedtimes). When change is necessary, good parents also take precautions (e.g., explain why the change is happening). Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that most adults, whether or not they realize it, also enjoy routines—even if and when the routines in question were established by someone else and are not necessarily in their best interest. Routines, after all, are safe and predictable. When they are broken up, children and adults alike are confronted with feelings of uncertainty and more often than not, they are confronted with new challenges that they may or may not be prepared to face.
While maintaining the status quo is often possible at home, maintaining the status quo is rarely possible or desirable in the workplace. Indeed, remaining competitive in a global economy is synonymous with change. While change may simply mean the introduction of a new ERP software program, at times, change takes more drastic forms. Naturally, a massive organizational restructuring that leads to new hires, new job categories, and employee layoffs is always stressful. Since not embracing change is not an option for most organizations, however, learning how to manage change is essential. Fortunately, by properly preparing for change, organizations can avoid employee resistance and even accelerate the desired transition.
Key Steps in Managing Change
At different points in time, organizations are more or less prepared for change. Before embarking on an organizational restructuring process, assess your organization’s readiness. How many people will be impacted by the change? Are the workers most likely to be impacted ready? What is your organization’s current climate? Is it likely to withstand a major change at this time? Finally, and most importantly, do you have a change management team or a change management process already in place? If not, are there key managers who may be well suited to lead the change process? What training and support can you offer them to ensure they are able to rise to the challenge?
Organizational change requires clear communication channels. More specifically, organizational change requires the ability to facilitate two-way communication. Managers need to communicate proposed changes to employees working at all levels of the organization and just as importantly, they need to be able to gather feedback from the employees who will be impacted by the proposed changes. Before initiating any major organizational change, ensure your have a plan in place to communicate the changes (e.g., will you rely on memos, emails, meetings or an employee retreat). If communications will be done in person (e.g., through a series of workshops, meetings or retreats), do you have a budget in place to support such events? Finally, how will feedback be re-circulated as required, and how will feedback on the changes be sent back up the institutional hierarchy to senior managers and the executive team?
Unless you’re proposing a minor change (e.g., a simple policy change that can be communicated in a single memo), training is an integral part of any organizational change. Before you initiate change, ensure you have a clearly developed training plan in place. What training needs will arise from the proposed organizational change or changes? What workers will be most impacted and require the most extensive training? How much lead up time will you need to implement the changes? Can the training take place simultaneous to the change? Should the training take place on-site and in person or can it take place using a learning management system?
Change requires evaluation and evaluation means generating metrics. Prior to initiating any organization change, then, it is essential to have a well developed plan in place to ensure to that from start to finish, the impact of the change (e.g., on productivity, security and ROI) is being tracked and analyzed and used to inform future organizational changes.