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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Four Rules for Successful Change Management

By Jeff Durr, Senior Managing Consultant, and Craig Kamins, Subject Matter Expert

We, at Gallup, hear all too often from senior leaders who are frustrated with change management initiatives that are failing. Leaders continue to fall short of their goals with change programs, whether it is a new product launch, an organizational restructure, a new customer service program, or an effort to increase cross selling. Leaders can increase their probability of success with any change initiative by keeping in mind these four simple rules.

1. Do not delegate large-scale organizational change to middle management. Senior leaders are best positioned to address large-scale change, despite their desire to empower middle managers. They are the only ones with the perspective to solve the complicated problems that arise during major change initiatives. Senior leaders are more likely than middle managers to be able to simplify and explain how the external environment impacts their organization. Additionally, senior leaders can best explain the economic factors behind the change and add clarity to the situation.

2. Actively solicit feedback from employees before change occurs. Leaders should solicit feedback from employees at all levels and have “pre-change” conversations to understand their employees’ key priorities and concerns. An employee’s viewpoint on the organization can change depending on his or her role, tenure, or level of engagement -- understanding these issues and concerns before implementing change can mean the difference between success and failure. Leaders should use multiple communication channels to have these “pre-change” conversations with employees and be sure to respond to employees’ questions and concerns.

3. Respect organizational culture, but do not let it dictate the intensity and breadth of change. When leaders appreciate and consider the organizational culture -- employees’ expectations, norms, and behaviors -- during large organizational change initiatives, it can make a world of difference. Even acknowledging that cultural barriers exist can have a positive effect on the success of large-scale changes.

At the same time, true organizational change challenges the status quo and resets underlying workplace issues. As change and culture meet, a natural friction is likely to occur. Leaders should be prepared to compromise on cultural issues that are not critical to accomplishing successful change.

This marriage of old and new won’t ever be exact, and a likely outcome of the change initiatives will be eliminating ineffective norms and behaviors. Leaders need to understand that this cultural shift can be a gradual process and that organizations, like humans, are only capable of digesting so much at one given time.

4. Clearly communicate your strategy and your reasoning behind the change. Leaders should not assume that the company’s strategy is clear and that employees -- particularly managers and front-line employees -- understand “why” and “how” the company will be changing. Making strategy relevant to front-line employees’ day-to-day work should be a leadership team’s primary objective.

Leaders also need to define the problem, be honest about the challenges, and show that the strategy they build and execute is logical. Leaders should be transparent about the future risks -- being open and honest with employees is a highly effective policy in the face of large-scale change.

Senior leadership’s real job, regardless of their individual title or job description, is to develop and implement successful change initiatives. Many senior leaders fail because they aren’t able to help an organization evolve. The more effective you are at change management, the higher your value to any organization.


kennethefields said...
March 18, 2013 at 10:03 AM  

Jeff and Craig,

I've found that some senior managers are better at selling their vision than others. If these 'Visionaries' surround themselves with change 'Builders' then the odds of success in their initiatives increase. Do you think that this ability to build a change network could offset someone's lack of effectiveness in change management?

Atul Joshi said...
March 24, 2013 at 10:21 AM  

Good write up. Captures the essence of change management nicely. I believe, in the chnage effort there's a special effort that needs to be made by Senior leaders to engage middle managers to ensure that they become champions / facilitators of change for their repectuve teams.

Atul Shankar Mathur said...
April 11, 2013 at 7:39 PM  

ALL kinds of roles are required and its an omnipresent truth in management circles. What impacts an growth for an organization is the aspect of humility in Top Management where recognition of ones skills is known. A Change Management Builders have not received their due recognition. A dying breed are those change builders who have an Visionary ability in them.

Saud Abbasi said...
April 11, 2013 at 9:53 PM  

No doubt senior leadership needs to take ownership and drive Change initiatives. However, my experience shows that these leaders need to consciously identify Associates at all levels of the organization who will understand and promote the change effectively. These individuals, even without Manager titles, can be key to developing momentum and identifying hidden resistence to change.

Lauren anderson said...
August 23, 2013 at 6:59 AM  

this is not a good process for approval

Vladislav said...
August 25, 2013 at 1:06 AM  

Dear Colleagues! It is very good that you are paying attention to this problem. You must specify that of the first rules are inspired by the other three. I want to say that in the 70s of the last century equivalent of the rules formulated the famous Russian scientist-cybernetic A. M. Glushkov. The principle is called "The First-to-Head".

Danny Na said...
January 2, 2014 at 9:50 PM  

Your post was exceptional in giving advice for those facing change management. I have not had any experience in this particular case, but I assume that the four simple rules you have listed in your blog will be an effective way of adapting to change management successfully. I agree with the previous comment that your first rule is inspired by the other three. I believe that communication is key when it comes to changes or anything for that matter. When building a company, solid foundations must be built before a solid company can become successful. Communication and actively soliciting feedback as well as respect are all important characteristics companies should have to successfully change management.

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