Driving change in most organizations can be (and is) difficult. This is especially true when the organization is used to doing things one way. I have worked in some companies where making decisions and changing business operations was easy (okay, as easy as it can be). These companies were usually pretty small and didn’t have a lot of rules or red tape to wade through to get to the other side. On the other hand, I have worked for some pretty large companies where it was nearly impossible to make changes.
Change management is the approach used to change or transform a person, team, or even company to a desired goal or state. Change management is usually referred to in project management processes wherein a project is established and accepted. However, I am referring to change management in an organization where the culture of the organization (i.e. employees) may need change to either keep up with competing companies or to keep up with the changing industry.
A common misconception from many people I’ve met who are not in the wireless industry is that wireless companies must be able to change very quickly because the industry is ever-evolving. I’ve only witnessed one company that was able to change quickly and that was only because the company was small enough to be able to initiate change rapidly. Most wireless companies, independently owned wireless retailers included, are difficult to change as a whole. Whether the change is in specific processes, organizational structure, or even something needs to be added or detracted from the business, changes will have an impact on the organization as a whole and needs to be thoroughly researched and properly implemented to get the most buy-in from the organization as a whole. Every situation and possible outcome should be thought of and addressed throughout the process.
First, identify what needs to change and why. If several things are identified as “needed changes,” if there aren’t specific (and compelling) reasons for the change, then just don’t do it.
Second, a realistic assessment of the organization should be conducted. Things to look for would include: who the change affects, to what degree the change affects certain departments or employees, what their anticipated reactions will be to the change, and the readiness of the organization to change.
Third, key individuals in the organization should be consulted with to get a feel for the organization and the support the change will receive through key players in the organization.
Fourth, if buy-in isn’t obtained by the majority, then the plan needs to address how to get the organization ready for change.
Fifth, create a plan. Yes, that’s easier said than done. The plan should include things like: a description of the change, reasons that benefit certain departments and the organization as a whole (if the change is that large), how to involve everyone in the organization in the change (including obtaining feedback about the change), and several ways to make the plan flexible.
Sixth, communication and ownership are key in change management. Communicate all of the details to the organization and find specific key people to give ownership of part of the change (usually for their area or department). Once ownership is established the organization should begin to see change fairly quickly.
Seventh, address concerns, questions, and comments by individuals at every level of the organization in a timely manner. Keep an open mind to the ideas and thoughts of all employees and be flexible in the ability to change initiatives if they aren’t working with the organization’s employees overall. Just because we want to do something one way, it doesn’t mean that it’s always the right way (or the easiest). Plans don’t always go the way we want – be prepared for that.
Eighth, change management doesn’t end when the goal is achieved. Creating permanent change and a positive culture takes time, dedication, and hard work. Ensure all employees feel valued and are included in future changes as needed.
If conducted correctly, organizational change management will help the organization reach the end-goal and even surpass it as the organization moves past trouble areas.