Before embarking on any change journey, organizational leaders must ensure that all stakeholders, from employees to senior management, understand the reasons and objectives behind the change. This understanding, in the 1st step of the ADKAR change management model, creates a shared sense of purpose and helps to reduce, not eliminate, resistance.
When people know why a change is happening, and how it aligns with the organization's goals, they're more likely to support and engage in the change process. Leaders should communicate the rationale for change clearly and transparently, addressing any concerns or doubts.
In communication, organizational leaders can host town hall meetings, send out newsletters, and use other channels to explain the need for change. They should provide concrete examples of how the change will benefit the organization, its employees, and its customers. Leaders should also be receptive to feedback and open to addressing questions and concerns, fostering a culture of trust and collaboration.
It's critical to this communication that leaders have invested time in understanding perspectives of benefit, impact, and urgency other than their own. What's urgent or impactful to one person, or to the organization, may not be immediately obvious without the patience to place yourself in the shoes of another, and to then be able to create communication from this enhanced perspective.
Desire is the emotional drive that propels individuals to actively participate in change. Organizational leaders play a crucial role in nurturing this commitment. It involves connecting the change to individual values and goals, emphasizing the positive impact, and addressing any fears or uncertainties. Leaders should actively engage with employees, listen to their perspectives, and help them see how the change aligns with their personal aspirations and professional growth. Without personal commitment, employees may go through the motions of change but may not fully embrace it.
To foster personal commitment, leaders can engage in 1:1 conversations with team members, demonstrating empathy and understanding. They should encourage employees to voice concerns, and provide opportunities for them to contribute their ideas to the change process. Additionally, leaders can recognize and reward employees who actively support and champion the change, reinforcing the importance of commitment.
While it's typical that direct managers are available to those they support, ensuring the visibility and accessibility of senior executives to management and front-line employees is key to earning and maintaining support for the change initiative. Small deposits of recognition and reward may have greater sustained impact, over the life of the change project, than would one, singular acknowledgement. Look for what's going right and call it out!
Providing knowledge is fundamental to successful change management. Without a solid understanding of what's changing and how it affects individuals and the organization, successful change is nearly impossible. Organizational leaders must ensure that employees have access to the information and training they need to confidently navigate the change. This step not only empowers individuals, but builds their confidence in the organization's ability to manage change effectively.
Leaders should develop comprehensive training programs and resources that address the specific skills and knowledge required for the change. These materials should be easily accessible, well-structured, and tailored to different employee roles. Communication should be continuous and 2-way, with leaders actively seeking feedback to identify and address knowledge gaps. By prioritizing knowledge transfer, leaders enable employees to make informed decisions and contribute to the success of the change initiative.
Careful, proactive planning is key to success in this area. Don't guess as to what skills will be needed for the change, or assume what skills your team members possess. Get this information ahead of time, through employee surveys and manager input, so you'll have a confident foundation from which to organize and implement your selected tools and resources.
Reinforcement is often the most overlooked step in change management, yet it's vital for ensuring that the change becomes ingrained in the organization's culture. Leaders must actively celebrate milestones and achievements related to the change, recognizing the efforts of individuals and teams. By doing so, leaders reinforce the idea that the change is not a temporary disruption, yet a new way of doing things, which helps prevent backslides into old habits.
Leaders can organize recognition events, share success stories, and acknowledge employees who have embraced the change, demonstrated desired behaviors, or have made valiant attempts to further progress, whether successful or not. They should also continuously monitor the change's progress, making adjustments as needed and addressing resistance that may arise. Additionally, leaders should create mechanisms for employees to provide feedback on the ongoing impact of the change and use this feedback to refine and improve the process. Through consistent reinforcement, leaders ensure that the change becomes a permanent part of the organization's DNA, driving sustained success.
The value of Organizational Change Management isn't realized in the success of one change project, yet is made apparent when organization's develop in their culture the practice of taking the best of what occurred in one project, organizing and storing learnings, from successes and mistakes, and making it accessible to employees moving forward to each next project. It's visible in this organizational knowledge sharing from those who are well-tenured, and it's visible in the onboarding of new employees, as it's made clear that change is a strength of the organization.
Contracting an Organizational Change Management Consultant to provide Executive Coaching, Workforce Development, Change Readiness Assessment, and/or to provide improved understanding of the ADKAR change management model can be the foundation for your long-term success in organizational change.
This section of the site is an excellent primer for insight on methodologies, tools, and resources that can support successful change efforts.
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David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive