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Featured, Transformation, Sep 14, 2021

Five tips for organisations wanting to instil effective change

Emily Richter

As the end of another year draws closer, some of you may have taken time away from work to recharge and reflect upon what changes you want to embed in your own personal life, driven by a desire to change things for the better. Yet, taking ownership and instilling personal change that ‘sticks’ can be inherently difficult for a number of different reasons. For example, you might have a fear of the unknown, or simply feel too comfortable in the situation that you are currently in.

Now, take a moment to consider management and leadership teams trying to instil change across their organisation. The process can be a challenging undertaking for any organisation, regardless of the size.

According to McKinsey & Company, 70% of organisational transformation programmes fail or fall short of fulfilling their change vision . Whether the transformation involves implementing a new technology system, operating model, or entering a new market, research suggests that programmes fail because of leadership being unable to clearly define the change strategy and approach, reasons for the change, intended benefits, or a plan for how the change will be communicated to the workforce.

There are several ways that your organisation can successfully plan for and execute sustainment activities. But how can you ensure that your efforts will achieve your organisational goals and outcomes, and ultimately make the desired change stick across your workforce?

This article outlines our top five tips for organisations wanting to instil effective change.

Read next: In the digital age, what are the key takeaways for organisations wanting to prepare their workforce for change?

1. Define the organisation’s vision and the ‘why’ behind the change

Vision is generally considered an essential component of organisational transformation. Most leaders focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ whilst avoiding the ‘why’ - often because this involves an emotional message and one that people are not usually au fait with.

As a result, companies should spend time executing the vision, mission, and values behind the change and look to define the bigger picture. They should continually build upon this vision, communicating where the company is currently, where it needs to go, and the importance of everyone’s involvement across the firm.

A successful change management plan should contain:

  • Vision for the change: What we are changing?

  • Rationale for the change: Why is it important to make that change?

  • List of related projects and initiatives: How will we achieve that change?

2. Build a comprehensive set of change interventions

The importance of developing a set of change interventions (e.g., a change strategy, change plan, and communication strategy and plan) that meets the needs of all impacted groups cannot be underestimated. Formulating a robust change management strategy is the first critical step in implementing change. The strategy will provide the direction for informed decision-making and describes how the change will impact the organisation. The change strategy is essential for managing the people and processes needed for the transformation.

As for communications, analysis of the audiences, the key messages that need to be delivered, and the timing all need to be taken in account. Each audience has different needs for any information provided based on their role in the wider implementation of the change. Organisations should anticipate the need to repeat the same messages. Many managers assume that if they have passed the message onto their staff, their job is complete. However, most of us need to hear a message a few times before it really sinks in, and employees’ readiness to listen depends on three key components: the audience, the message, and the timing of the message.

3. Ensure leaders fully understand their role in driving change

Equipping leaders to drive the change will be key. Each leader should understand their role in driving change within their department - this is typically done through carrying out a Change Impact Assessment. They should be familiar with the change and communication plan and approach, any key milestones, and understand any change activities in the pipeline.

At the same time, leaders should regularly cascade information amongst their teams and departments, helping to create a culture of trust through open and collaborative communication with their teams. Being able to articulate the ‘what is in it for me?’ question will be key to assisting staff in the impending change. Leaders will also have to deal with resistance to change and should therefore learn how to manage resistance and ambiguity.

4. Celebrate behavioural ‘quick wins’

Recognising and rewarding staff for demonstrating the new behaviours is imperative to maintaining momentum and cementing change within your organisation. It provides staff with something tangible and validates the new ways of working, which should be rooted in the culture and transformation vision. Taking the time to think about what behaviours you want to drive is often forgotten about. Establishing the key behaviour changes should be agreed within six to twelve months of setting up the programme. They provide the opportunity for storytelling - an important initiative of communication during any transformation programme.

5. Measure effectiveness and adjust your plan, if necessary

Tracking progress and measuring for effectiveness is one of the most important steps in ensuring that progress is being made towards a shared vision. Break the change down into smaller tasks and subsequently test to see if the desired outcomes have been achieved.

To measure this, companies can use various systems and tools, including staff feedback surveys and analysing metrics such as key performance indicators (KPIs). It is important to develop a culture where staff are given time to stop, think, and reflect on what ‘good’ looks like and ponder whether outcomes are being met to determine if they are still on track. This is part of the ongoing, continuous improvement of change management for your organisation and will lead to change competency.

In a nutshell

Change can be hard, especially in the context of large-scale, complex organisational change. Be that as it may, change can ‘stick’. It does, however, require close thought, a strong change management and approach, continuous measurement, and effective communication.

By following our top five tips for instilling change, your organisation will be on the right path to reap the rewards of your transformation programme. Applying these components effectively will aid transformation success, mitigate the risk of losing staff, and minimise the negative impact of the change on your organisation’s productivity and customers.

To discuss your change management requirements, please get in touch with one of our experts.

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