Managing your people through the organizational change process

November 27, 2019 Matt Vermeulen

So what is an organizational change management strategy, anyway? 

Knowing what one is and being able to create one are helpful tools to put into your leadership toolbox if you’re considering making organizational change. Especially if you’re considering digital transformational technology. The quick answer: an organizational change management strategy is a plan to help make sure the change you’re making is a success within your organization. 

You’re probably here because you have a big, potentially groundbreaking change in mind, and you want to know, “how do you convince an employee to change?” You’re a little worried because you’re well aware that the ground is littered with the empty husks of failed changes that never caught on. 

Don’t worry though, there’s hope—with a change management plan in place, you can get everyone behind your shift. To get it done, you need to define the steps you’ll take, what a strategy even looks like, and how to convince your people to get behind it. 

What are the steps in the organizational change management process?

Researchers recommend using a “from/to/because” organizational change model to create not only a plan for change, but develop the support for that change within your enterprise. It helps to give a beginning and an end to the process. It also gives you a way to frame the change in a way that tells a story. 

Be clear on where to start

You start by defining your current position. You need to assess how you behave, how you work, and how projects are completed. Ask all your teams these questions, and get input from everyone. It not only helps you to get input from everyone, but it also gives a voice to everyone in your enterprise. It helps get your people to understand where they’re at, and helps them look forward to the change you want to implement. 

Define your change clearly. You already had an inkling about what you wanted to be changed, that’s why you convinced key stakeholders to buy into the solution you identified. But you’re going to need everyone now to get on board, otherwise, you run the risk of losing the popular support of your team, dooming your project from the start. 

To get them on board, you’ll need to define the actions you want your people to buy into. So you’ll need to clearly and concisely lay out the direction your enterprise needs to go to get there. And since you don’t know the future, only how you want it to be, leave room to revise along the way. Stick to the desired outcomes you want to see, but leave room for what that future might actually look like. 

Be able to explain why you want to change

You’re asking everyone in your organization to change for you. You owe it to them to explain why. And it needs to be more than your old schoolteacher’s retort, “because I said so.” You’re going to have to define why you want the change. That includes clearly stating why it’s crucial, aligning the change to your organization’s strategy, and defining why it needs to happen now.

And if you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you already know that this step is frequently bungled or overlooked. So don’t blow it. Give your people the full view, all the information, and all of the expectations so they can know how to join in on this change. 

The first leg of the journey

Once you’ve got the ‘from, to, because’ organizational change model, you need to have a training plan ready to go. Whether it’s a whole scale top-down training, a set of mobile-friendly, digital modules, or key stakeholder training, it’s up to you. But you do need to create the training, have a plan for communicating it, and evaluating the efficacy of the training and plan for putting the change into action. 

Making the first steps clear and achievable will make the whole process seem achievable. It will help build buy-in and confidence for your people and help show them that this change is not only worthwhile but actionable. 

Organizational change and innovation

The rapid pace of technological innovation is making change inevitable, and urgent, for most enterprises. We recently chatted with executives from Levis and Genpact to see how they look at organizational change management and how innovation is helping to get employees on board with the whole-cloth change. It provides solutions for all three areas of organizational change management. 

When dealing with explaining where to start to your people, you get to quickly explain the change you want to implement. What’s crucial is being able to explain how it’s not just about being knowledgeable about new technologies, it’s about how to use these new technologies to solve the problems your enterprise might face. 

When discussing the attributes and behaviours you want to implement, you can explore how innovation allows you to focus on outcomes instead of processes. Ultimately, you’re changing so that you can be more adaptive and achieve the goals your enterprise wants to hit. It’s not about the product itself you’re investing in, it’s about the outcomes you’ll be able to achieve with that program. So the answer isn’t “automation,” the answer is how we make the enterprise simpler and more streamlined through automation to reach the outcomes we want to hit. 

Watch our Innovation Summit panel video on the human side of automation to learn more about people change management. 


About the Author

Matt Vermeulen

Matt Vermeulen writes about B2B commerce for Tradeshift. Whether he's writing about Accounts Payable best practices or debunking AI myths, Matt enjoys making complex topics easy to understand and fun to read.

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