Preparing Your Team for Organizational Change: 4 Powerful Tips

Preparing Your Team for Organizational Change: 4 Powerful Tips

Change creates resistance

When you think of organizational change management, which of these responses most aptly describes you? Do you A) get up and dance for joy, B) groan loudly and execute a world-class eye roll, or C) jump up and run for the nearest exit?

Can't decide between B and C, yeah, I feel your pain. Even good leaders can overlook the emotional impact that business innovation can have on employees.

Most of us are creatures of habit and like things to stay the way they are.

According to the diffusion of innovation theory, only 10 to 15% of the population are early adopters or the ones first in line for organizational change. That leaves most of us taking a wait-and-see approach and a few of us actively resisting adjustment.

This wait-and-see approach may be fine when it comes to upgrading to the latest cell phone, but it can be detrimental when you're trying to implement change within your organization.

Change is the new normal

We live in a world that's in constant flux, advancement is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. The constant barrage of technological, social, economic, and governmental advancement has become background noise.

We all deal with organizational change a bit differently, but what we all have in common is a natural resistance to it.

There are many good reasons for making business transformations, adapting to market shifts, responding to competition, providing better customer service, etc.

Yet seemingly innocuous organizational changes to processes, workflow, business direction, or workplace culture can leave employees feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and uncertain about their future.

To help ease the transition for employees, it’s important to create a healthy workplace culture that is supportive and nurturing.

This means providing clear and concise communication, fostering a collaborative environment, and providing resources and training that help employees feel confident in their skills.

Additionally, it is equally as important to take the time to assess your organization’s current state and make a plan for how you want it to be.

This involves understanding your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as their goals and aspirations. Once you have a clear picture of where you are and where you want to go, it will be much easier to implement the organizational changes necessary for growth.

One study showed that less than one-third of respondents—all of whom had been part of a transformational shift in the past five years—say their companies’ transformations have been successful at both improving organizational performance and sustaining those improvements over time.

Innovation efforts fail for many reasons, but right up there at the top is our natural resistance to adjustments of any sort. One of the biggest reasons innovation efforts fail is because they lack an effective organizational change management process. Without a plan in place, teams quickly become bogged down in details and lose sight of their overall goal.

So how do we help our employees and staff move from resisting organizational change to embracing it? If most efforts to spearhead innovation fail, how can we make sure yours succeeds?

I'm glad you asked. Here are several ways you can help your employees embrace organizational change.

Encourage Questions

business man answering his teams questions

One of the first and easiest things that can be done to help employees embrace transformation is to encourage them to ask questions.

In the absence of information, people will create a story, sheer fiction, that may cause more harm than good. So let's be proactive.

In order to create a successful innovation initiative, it's important to foster a culture of communication. This means encouraging employees to ask questions and openly discuss organizational changes.

Speak to people individually and have group meetings where the transformations can be openly discussed.

In many instances, people won't ask an excellent question for fear that it will be considered a “stupid” question. If you are patient, you will field questions that will make your entire team better and shut down the conspiracy theories before they can take root.

Beyond the town hall meetings, create a workplace culture that welcomes questions.

By doing this, everyone will be better prepared for the adjustments that are coming their way.

I recently worked with an organization to create change champions. Several influential individuals were skeptical about the need for innovation, but once I shared with the organization some of the principles of change and why the positives outweighed any negatives, they warmed to the discussion.

This led to an organization-wide question-and-answer session with myself and the CEO that galvanized and energized the entire organization around the coming organizational change.

Make Change Champions

You have a choice, you can make change critics or change champions. You can accomplish this easily by involving people who will be affected by the adjustments early on in the discussions.

By involving employees beforehand, they will develop a vested interest in the success of the change by taking ownership in it.

People defend what they develop. If someone feels they have an ownership in the change and that their voice was heard, they will become a change champion.

People defend what they develop but they fight what they fear.

Share Your Vision with Your Team

An executive sharing their organizational change plan with a teammate

For development to be effective, communication has to be clear, consistent, and intentional.

The only thing you can bet on is confusion, so make sure you are communicating well.

By the way, sending an email doesn't count as clear communication. By the time a leader, or leadership team announces an organizational change, you have been working on it for quite a while.

You have lived with it, argued for it, dissected it, and understand it. Remember that your staff and employees may not have had the same level of engagement in the process.

They are going to need some time to sort through the implications of the intended organizational change. Be patient.

Remember that your staff and employees may not have had the same level of engagement in the process.

As a leader, you want to help them see both the risks they will avoid and the rewards that will be obtained by making the change.

You want them on your side, but you also want them to make their own decisions based on what is best for them and their team.

Point them to that brighter future you see clearly, but may still be a bit fuzzy to them. Your patience will be rewarded.

What did I miss? How have you successfully navigated the transformation minefield in your organization?

I would love to hear your tales of innovative glory and/or field any questions you might have.
Until next time,

Make today count.

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About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

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