Organisational change is a difficult concept to understand; broadly, it is the process by which an organisation makes changes to its structure, strategies, operational methods, technologies or culture. According to the Harvard Business Review, an average of 70% of all change initiatives fail. By the above definition, change is a fundamental part of our everyday working lives so why is it that organisational change has such a high failure rate?
From a major projects perspective, organisational change has become increasingly prevalent in the past few years as companies downsize or reshuffle staff in response to the challenging economic climate. As a result, many team members’ responsibilities have shifted and expanded to include additional activities.
A common example is the expansion of engineering team members’ responsibilities to include project planning and scheduling functions. With little to no training to support the change, this is a potentially crippling change, given that project planning and scheduling requires an in-depth knowledge of complex enterprise systems, as well as a fundamental understanding of project scheduling methodologies and best practices.
So what is the best way to make organisational change successful both in a major project context and also more broadly? Based on our experience, we have compiled a list of the top six ways you can support and sustain the change your business needs:
1. Seek guidance on what the best solution is, from a knowledgeable and trusted source
Firstly, you will need to analyse the root of the cause. Without identifying the real issue at hand, there is no way to successfully implement effective solutions. The best way to do this is to seek guidance on what the best solution is, from knowledgeable and trusted sources. The benefit of seeking help from experienced change and industry professionals is that they take the guess work out of the equation by identifying issues and recommending the right solutions and execution plans for your organisation.
Also keep in mind, if there are multiple changes to be made, you must be tactful in your deployment. Too many changes at once can be off-putting, so deliver your organisational change in phases. Remember to find your initiatives and stick with them, employees find it exhausting when the application of change is inconsistent; it hinders their belief in the execution process which leads to failure.
2. Find a leader who will support the change
Leaders are influential. They guide direction, course, action, and opinion. To ensure your organisational change efforts have a fighting chance, review whether the leadership supports the cause. They need to be the change they want to see, so they must lead with example and the others are more likely to follow suit.
3. Engage the people
Remember that organisations don’t change, people do, therefore involving employees in the change process is crucial to success. Get people’s attention by sharing the sense of urgency and ownership of the proposed change. This will increase employee participation and acceptance to the change, making positive shifts to the Organisational Culture.
4. Pay attention to the Organisational Culture
Change is resistant because it attacks human habit – employees’ comfort zones. So take a moment to investigate the organisational culture and history. What is the history of organisational change in your company? Has it failed in the past and why? What were successful components of change previously orchestrated?
Organisational cultures where change is accepted do exist. They exhibit strong alignment of values with the people and organisation where change acceptance is weaved in everyday work. Employees are encouraged to embrace change and thrive in it – it is seen as an opportunity to test and utilise their skills.
5. Manage change through education to achieve sustainability
Managing change through authority is a short-term solution. Education and training will provide a solid foundation to carry through organisational change. When we are introduced to a new workplace, we go through induction and learn about the operations and culture of the organisation, so why not recalibrate attitudes, habits and work expectations with a “change induction”? Training workshops are beneficial to change implementation; it supports the core structure of the change plan and formalises the facilitation of change.
6. Make the investment
Change is an investment. It requires money, time, and attention; therefore, you need to be realistic with your budgeting and return expectations. Poor change execution can lead to additional risks and costs that can easily be unaccounted for. This includes a plunge in productivity, loss of valued employees, reduced quality of work, project delays, budget overruns, investment losses, and many more. Investing in training programs is a good place to start. A well trained team is like an insurance policy that pays out early, it’s in the organisation’s best interests to insure wisely.
Training and education is ultimately the best solution, with a huge range of flexible and scalable options. From easy-to-access eLearning, comprehensive Instructor Led Training courses, and ultimately Tailored Training customised to your exact requirements, training is a great way to implement new processes or systems changes.
Many organisations have their own reasons for change. They also have their own organisational hurdles to overcome. We must remember that change can be implemented when we support our people. Involve them, inform them, and educate them. The best thing we can do to facilitate change is to embrace it, learn to thrive on it and give our employees the training they need to handle it.