Change Management: how to transform organizations successfully

Change is a fundamental element of the success of every company. It keeps us moving, keeps us growing, keeps us interested. However, badly executed change processes lead to change fatigue and frustration and high transformation costs. This is where “change managers” come into play. They help organizations systematically in dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization’s goals, processes or technologies. Their purpose is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change and helping people to adapt to change.

Working in the area of Change Management and Organizational Development for a while now, I would like to share some thoughts with you about what I find important.

Change initiatives need outstanding leadership

A strong leadership coalition is the central enabler and driver of change processes. Leaders give employees support and a sense of security. They don’t only design a united vision on management level but also need to perceive cultural changes and also promote the right behaviors. In transformational processes they act as “servant leaders” who lead with empathy and vision instead of authority.

Communication needs to be simple and target-oriented

Thanks to digitalization, there have never been as many opportunities as there are today to engage in direct dialog with employees and involve them in transformations. At the same time, not all communication channels are equally effective. Therefore, communication must be adapted to the respective target groups. When creating a communication strategy, the “ADKAR” framework can be used. Furthermore, Quick Wins should be communicated to keep up the motivation and make the changes more tangible.

Cultural transformation requires a participative approach

Changes can only be considered successful, when they are truly and sustainably embodied in the corporate culture. Not only new behaviors and ways of working need to be established, but also rethinking of old attitudes and assumptions matter. For this, the current culture needs to be understood and a new, desired values need to be defined in a participative approach. Only in co-creation with change agents and dialogue with employees, a successful installation of new routines that promote a new corporate culture is possible.

Consistent implementation of measures

Change management does not only take place in the heads of employees but must also be embedded in structures and processes. That is why organizational changes require often a program or project structure that gives transparency over the progress and coordinates the implementation of change measures.

The five phases of change

Change management shouldn’t be done for the sake of change but rather to accompany strategic transformation processes and measures. In every change process, there are five main phases:

1.    Initiation

At the beginning of each change process, the overall conditions need to be determined, relevant stakeholders involved, and an implementation roadmap created. An initial analysis of the current situation and change obstacles also helps.

2.    Conception

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for any organization. That is why leaders and employees need to co-create a new mission statement and measures. A mission statement must be individual, shaped by the organization’s own culture and supported by employees.

3.    Mobilization

Afterwards, a professional communication campaign supported by change agents can create the necessary transparency and information exchange. Change agents are employees or leaders with a good network who act as “allies” of the transformation to motivate, inform and help to reduce fears.

4.    Implementation

Competence development and coaching helps to increase the confidence about a positive change for everyone involved. By providing training opportunities, employees increase their ability to adapt the new ways of working.

5.    Stabilization 

For sustainable transformation, new mechanisms and routines need to be created that promote the new ways of working and make successes measurable. Communicating the progress and successes openly helps to keep everyone motivated.

I hope these are valuable insights for you. At re:think, we have been working together with our clients to ideate, design, validate and implement digital and organizational transformation initiatives. If you are facing a reorganization and you want to achieve more than just developing a new organizational chart, we’d love to invest some time to help you. Feel free to start a conversation with me via LinkedIn or Email.

written by: Johanna Schmitt, Business Consultant at re:think Innovations GmbH

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