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Executive Leadership Coaching

2 minute read

Change Management: How You Respond to Organizational Change Is Essential to Your Success

Dec 12, 2018

Written by: Paige Wolk

When it comes to organizational change, I like to compare change management to something legendary football coach Lou Holtz is quoted as saying “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”  Today organizational change is inevitable. Big or small, all organizations experience change. When it comes to change management, how you respond to organizational change is essential to your success.

Change management can be a complex process, and many factors come into play—not the least of which are the size of the organization, and the size and scope of the change. Boiling it down to basics, to me successfully responding to change requires 3 key elements: communication, collaboration, and leadership.

Change Management: Communication

First and foremost, communication is key to change management. It’s critical to include all audiences, and consider the types of messages appropriate to each. Dig deeper than separating internal and external audiences, and plan communications that address each type of audience individually.

Externally, your vendors, investors, and your customers interact with you differently. If you’re global, you may need different approaches for customers on different continents.

The same level of detail should be applied to internal audiences. Speak to each audience according to their unique priorities, goals, values, and capacity for change.

Second, the sooner you start communicating, the better. Get ahead of rumors, which left to fester can result in doubt, worry, and frustration. Proactively set the stage, and you won't have to do as much work to counteract the rumor mill—unfortunately you’ll have some work to do, as there are bound to be rumors to address along the way.

While speed is good, don’t shoot from the hip, either. Be intentional, and invest the time to get it right. Your bottom-line goal is to generate support. A recent article on the Cornell University blog Cornell#360, “How to Plan and Prepare for Organizational Change”, cited research published in Corporate Communications: An International Journal, which identified four goals of change communication—the first being to increase buy-in and decrease resistance. That’s your priority.

Third, don’t forget responsiveness is an integral part of communication. Communication for change management should be a dialogue, not a directive. Stay tuned to your audiences and respond to their questions, concerns, and what they may need from you—as well as to their excitement.

Change Management: Collaboration

Every successful change management experience thrives on collaboration. From planning and preparation to implementation and management, a team approach is the key to success. Teams bring to the table unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise, as well as ideas and insights invaluable to the change process. Whether assessing risk and analyzing impact, or discovering gaps and opportunities, a collaborative approach is a comprehensive approach.

Whether organizational collaboration is interval or ongoing will be determined by the change and your strategy. For enterprise-wide change, designation of formal collaborative teams that engage throughout is a best-practice approach. Some organizations will also dedicate a full-time core team to the change management effort. Other types of changes may require collaboration only at key milestones, and certainly during the planning process.

Change Management: Leadership

No organizational change can succeed without effective leadership. Successful change management is a top-down process, not bottom-up. Leadership at all levels must champion the change and actively participate in supporting the journey. From sharing the big-picture vision to positioning the organization for success by providing resources and removing barriers, at the end of the day, leadership is responsible for whether organizational change succeeds—or fails.

One last point: When in doubt, consult an expert—like Spinnaker—who can help you create and manage a detailed change management plan, as well as help you monitor and adjust it along the way. After all, even the best-laid plans sometimes, well, don’t go as planned.

Do you have a leadership question for Spinnaker’s team of experts? Send it to Spinnaker’s Founder and Managing Partner at shawn.sweeney@spinnakerconsultinggroup.com. Stay connected and follow Spinnaker on LinkedIn to receive updates in your LinkedIn feed.