Change is an inevitable part of life, and organizational change is also unavoidable. Even though most of us realize this is true, it doesn’t mean that going through it is always easy or comfortable. Most change within organizations begins at the leadership level and comes as a result of something deemed worthy of accomplishing.
But how can leadership drive change effectively?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
When introducing any kind of change, leaders should take ownership of communicating it to the organization - early and often. The bigger the change, the more strategic the communication plan should be. Who needs to know what, and when? Timing is critical too. Communicating broadly too early before the change occurs can leave too much time for employees to fret, and waiting until the last minute can catch people off-guard.
Choose Change Champions.
It's important that the change is supported by people throughout all levels of the organization, and not just by those at the top. Even though the directive for any change typically comes from leadership, people are much more likely to buy in to a new initiative if others they work with are, too. For this reason, having champions at all levels who are engaged in the change process is key. Hold focus group meetings to get feedback on what may be difficult about the change and take this feedback seriously. In this blog post, our CEO reviews how he rolled out focus groups for communicating and empowering employees.
With any change, there is going to be an adjustment period. There will also likely be negative aspects. It's important to think through these potential pitfalls ahead of time and come up with ideas to combat them. Skipping this step could leave you unprepared once the initiative is already underway. There is no way to predict everything that could go wrong, but putting real thought into this ahead of time will save a lot of pain later.
Once a change has been implemented, celebrate its success in a way that showcases the positives. Especially if the change has been painful for any reason, you will want to draw attention the benefits it has brought. This may mean getting creative in how you describe aspects of the change.
Be Open to Changing Your Change.
Any new idea is just an idea until it is implemented in the real world. Leaders should be flexible and willing to adjust as needed. If possible, start out with a small segment of your organization as a pilot before rolling out to the organization as a whole. See what works and what doesn't, and tweak as necessary.
In the immortal words of Winston Churchill, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." Change can be painful, but if it's happening at all, there is likely a good reason for it. Leaders can be powerful change agents if they keep all of these tips in mind.
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