By RedBalloon for Business

How to manage organisational change for your business

When it comes to organisational change, one thing any successful business owner knows is if you want your business to survive the long term, you need to be prepared to pivot and change into something better along the way. Yet despite how important change is to business growth, few leaders know how to manage organisational change successfully.

Changing people’s behaviour is no easy or short-term feat. It takes time and it’s a bugbear for many people leaders and HR professionals. So here are 6 things you should be doing to win at leading the change journey.

1. Give people a common goal

John P. Kotter is renowned for his work on leading organisational change. He identifies ‘developing a vision’ as one of the most common pitfalls when it comes to unsuccessful transitions. Your company needs to know what they’re working towards, what’s driving their priorities and how decisions are made.

Whether you go with Jim Collin’s method of setting a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” BHAG or Gary Keller’s principle of setting “The ONE thing” – the important thing is to provide your people a point of focus – one that unites them, gives them something bigger than themselves to attach to, and allows them to measure their success and set priorities against.

2. Find out how/where are you (and your people) are right now

There’s an African proverb that goes, “If you wanna go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The same can be said in business, and it speaks to the importance of working with and listening to the the team around you.

Take some time to gather information and insight from your people (not just the leaders) about the current state of play. Pair qualitative with quantitative methods (engagement or pulse survey tools like CultureAmp are great) so you can understand the current status and set benchmark to work towards. Tools that give you access to data also allows you see progress and the trends across teams/departments over time.

Whether you’re managing change in a company of 8 or 80,000, the key is providing your people opportunities to genuinely connect and provide information that you intend to act on. If there’s no intention to act on the feedback/information your people provide, then don’t bother – you’ll end up in a worse place than where you started because you’ll have wasted their time and broken their trust.

3. Determine where you want to be and create a plan to get there

Now that you have feedback and data that tells you a story about your people what needs to change, you have information to set clear goal to work towards, it’s time to plan for and create achievable short-term wins.

Avoid vague statements like, “improve the effectiveness of the service desk or call center”. The sentiment might be great, but a clear, actionable plan requires goals that are clear and measurable. A better example is “increase the percentage of incoming calls successfully resolved within 24 hours,” (or whatever the appropriate SLA is).

The goals set by specific individuals or teams should all somehow help the company achieve the common goal; ideally you will have identified specific individuals or areas where the wins will impact the easiest and fastest instead of trying to roll the change across the board. Start with small, easy steps – as you gain momentum and achieve, you’ll see the ripple effect across the whole business.

4. Identify your change agents

Speaking at the HR Summit how to manage organisational change successfully at Bankstown City Council, General Manager Matthew Stewart declared, “For change to be successful, you need leadership at all levels of the organisation.” It’s a sentiment John Kotter echoes in his advice to establish a guiding coalition – people from across the business who are passionate and able to advocate and activate the change they want to see.

Empowering people to make decisions and making each person accountable for change is incredibly important. This is the secret to RedBalloon for Business’s best-practice employee recognition programs and why they help effect long-term change in a company’s culture.

We encourage businesses to let their employees lead, which (unlike traditional, top-down recognition) takes the responsibility for workplace culture away from just the leaders, and gives it to everyone. Instead of relying on managers to recognise work they may or may not see on a daily basis, giving your employees the power to recognise is a perfect way to empower them and show them you trust in their judgement and work ethic.

Ownership automatically instils a sense of responsibility, but it also encourages a sense of pride. Those who want a workplace worth working for will create one, if they’re given the tools and freedom to do so.

5. Celebrate progress as it happens

During his presentation, Stewart also stressed the importance of celebrating wins regularly, in a timely manner, to reinforce progress. “Want to know how encourage innovation and change?” He asked the audience, “Find quick wins that make a difference and celebrate them.”

Of all the things that can help you maintain momentum during periods of long change, it’s the acknowledgement of progress. Consciously taking the time to recognise and thank those responsible for progress is a sure fire way to motivate and reinforce the change that’s happening in the business. If you can do this in a public forum (as is the case when businesses use RedBalloon for Business’s REDii platform to promote cultural change and strategic priorities), it makes the progress visible across the business.

6. Don’t be afraid of failure

“A lot of behavior change is about failing your way to success,” shared Tom DiDonato and Noelle Gill, in their HBR article on managing organisational change. Change is a learning process, and as with any learning experience, mistakes are unavoidable. The key, they advise, is allowing people to be show their vulnerability.

Admitting vulnerability – and creating a trusting enough environment where people can be honest about this – is the first step to true growth. As business owners and people leaders, we need to meet that vulnerability with opportunities to learn (that may require coaching) as well as clear accountability (which is often something overlooked but is critical). In the absence of either of these things, change takes a back seat and is destined to fail.


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