Five factors that can make or break change

As the role of a company in the market changes, so does the corporate culture.

So much of what makes a company successful lies in the culture within it.  This is why when a change is made, even if the change is from an external force; we need to closely manage how the change impacts employees.

Inclusiveness in the disruption
It’s important to involve the workforce with the change process.  A traditional school of thought is to insulate workers from change as a means to ensure stability and performance as long as possible.

Resistance to change

Working to avoid “staff disturbances” by separating the people from understanding the change ultimately threatens the stability and productivity that it was intended to protect.

We need to rethink the way we approach change to encourage

an understanding of change at all levels early in the process.  Encouraging cultural experimentation and an innovative spirit when it comes to change helps all levels of the organization understand and ultimately embrace the change.

Capacity for conflict
By nature, change is going to yield resistance, and resistance will yield conflict. 

Regardless of how workers show resistance to change-- actively, passively, verbally or non-verbally-- these are all forms of resistance and will result in conflict that needs to be expected, embraced and constructively mitigated.

Generally speaking the type of resistance experienced by employees fall into the following matrix:

Organizational change managers need mechanisms in place to recognize each type of resistance as it occurs.  The resistance will become conflict of some sort and may not be immediately visible.  It is important to capture the resistance as soon as possible and provide positively constructive ways for employees to process the resistance as conflict.  It is not until you can get the conflict out that your organization can move beyond it.  You must build capacity for positive conflict into your change design.

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsSense of belonging
A community-wide sense of belonging within the organization goes a long way towards reducing fear and fostering solidarity of your teammates at all levels of the organization.  Moving towards a company-wide feeing of “Us” founded in the ability of employees to trust what is being told to them about the change comes from a sense of belonging.

How does your message about change speak to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  If employees are worried about whether or not they will be on the streets next week without a job, it is going to be difficult to drive a sense of belonging.

If your change includes replacing one major process for another, think about ways that you can help reward employees who end up working to shut down a process that was once their specialty.  Think of their career options and ways that you can help them feel more secure about the upcoming change.   Speak to their base needs first.

Convey a sense of meaning
Make a direct connection to what each team member does on the job each day with the goals of the company.  Look at your vision, mission and operating principle document and underscore how each employee contributes to it.  It is important to underscore the importance of each person’s work to the purpose of the company.  This helps reinforce each person’s importance to the organization, the importance of the work at hand, and the importance of any extra duties that may be required of individuals in the near term.

In times of change, it really is impossible to over communicate; however, it is very possible to miscommunicate.  As change happens traditional hierarchies have a difficult time communicating the right message, the right way to the right people.  Stretching your communication means to include more informal communications is necessary to get the information across quickly and effectively.  Consider sending your upper management to the shop floor regularly to do walk-arounds.  Schedule and encourage attendance at less formal informational sessions to help answer questions.  It is about getting the point across quickly and effectively in a way that fosters the community and trust mentioned earlier.

By developing a systematic methodology to all five factors, you will ensure that you monitor, capture and mitigate some of the largest organizational change risks.