An organization is, quite simply, any group of individuals who come together to try to achieve mutual goals by means of a division of labor. This is done by means of setting goals that will further the organization’s growth and viability within the existing social and economic milieu as well as developing agreements among the people comprising the organization as to who will do what and when and under whose supervision and guidance.
When contemplating changing anything about these arrangements, it is well to be advised to start at the beginning of why and how this existing arrangement came to be and why it exists at the current time. After all, what has come to be accepted and observed as the standard operating procedures of an organization came about for good reasons and have been effective at achieving beneficial results for a period of time (perhaps a very long period of time). Altering an accepted, comfortable and heretofore useful way of doing things is challenging. The initial challenge that presents itself is fully comprehending and appreciating the foundational narrative of the organization and the collective experiences that members have shared since its inception. In other words, what of its past makes the organization tick today?
After coming to a thorough understanding of what makes the current organization tick, there are five steps that need to be taken sequentially in order to effect effective change.
1. The first step to take in initiating change within any type of organization is to create acute awareness of how things are now and how this state of affairs falls short of accomplishing stated goals and objectives. This can be done by disseminating occasional “state of the organization” reports as well as holding brief, but frequent, “progress report” meetings within each department and/or subgroup.
2. The second step is to nurture understanding that something must be done to change the current situation. Solicitation of input from coworkers regarding what can be done to change things follows logically from the understanding that something should be done. “Input equals buy-in” and those who contribute their ideas on how their organization should change have a strong investment in making that change happen.
3. Next, although people may provide suggestions as to how to change, unless there is a sense of urgency to do so, change will be perceived merely as a concept rather than a process that needs to be started immediately. Once change is understood as needing to be accomplished, a positive perception of what it will look like, both in terms of the transition process and the “finished product,” needs to be fostered and fed by constant communication about the shared vision of the future and the specific ways everyone will individually benefit in that new reality.
4. On the way to making the changed environment and operating procedures “stick” and stay feasible throughout the organization, there needs to be a well-thought-out program to ensure the actual adoption of the changes in the way things are done. Rewarding those who perform in the new ways and telling the stories of how their results better meet the current needs and accomplish the goals of the organization will go a long way to moving all members toward behaving in the “new and better” way.
5. Once adopted as “the way things are done around here” change can be seen as having been institutionalized within the organization and established as the new standard for performance and measurement of success, recognition and reward. Continue to solicit feedback on the new ways and request still other ways members can improve their respective job tasks to achieve even greater levels of efficiency. The idea is to leverage the experience and ideas of those who do the job to improve the job on a continuous basis. Institutionalizing new and improved ways of doing things in an organization is an ongoing process. In other words, managing organizational change means to continually insist on change for the better.
Knowing the roots of the organization, where and when it arose and how it’s progressed over time, and then engaging in the five steps to initiating and managing organizational change, you will successfully guide your organization through its transition from where it is now to where it needs to be for greater effectiveness and better results.
Ken Wallace, M. Div., CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.
Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems and Process Coaches worldwide for General Motors.
His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design program.
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Author: Kenneth Wallace