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Is Your Organization Ready for Change?

Follow these best practice steps for getting ready for change

Success-FailureFor an organization that hasn’t gone through change before or one that has went through change that has failed, you want to be sure the organization is ready to move forward with change before starting another initiative. In such situations, the organization is already skittish and employees from throughout will be backing away from getting involved – hoping it will all just go away. Or you already hear talk of failure in the hallways – “here we go again; yet another change initiative.”  Start by analyzing what happened last time – what went wrong and how it can be fixed – without focusing on placing blame on an individual or a group.

When a client asks me to help with a change initiative because the last one was not successful, one of the first things I like to do is acknowledge the failure of the last initiative and explain what we’ll (the organization) be doing to increase the success of this upcoming initiative. It helps the employees to hear you acknowledge that it wasn’t successful and that you have learned from it. It increases their confidence.

Following a few best practice steps before you launch the change initiative will make the difference between success and failure.

  • Is it the right time: Consider what else is happening within the company or will be happening when this change initiative takes off. Is it the right time to move forward? You must look at the broad organization to see if it is the right time to move forward – look beyond your division, department or work group. Change often has a further reach then we initially consider.
  • Understanding: Be sure that everyone understands why change is needed and what the benefits to the company and to the individual employees will be. Often times talking about the benefits to the company is the easy part – do not forget the employees and how they will benefit from the change.
  • Reach out: Reach out to employees and ask for their input – what is working now, what is not working, what can be done better. Ask for employee involvement in the change initiative. You don’t want them sitting on the sidelines; you want them engaged.
  • Make a list of “needs”: Determine what will be needed for the change initiative to be a success.  Will new technology be required to support the change? Do employees need to be trained in a new process? Do you need to “slow down” a bit from your plans in order to ensure that you have effectively and sufficiently socialized the upcoming initiative with employees?

Consider these key questions that will help you to determine if the organization is ready to move forward with change (use a scale of 1 – 4 with 1 corresponding to “no” and 4 corresponding to “yes”):

  • There is a sense of urgency and a strong desire within the organization that change must happen.
  • There is a willingness by employees and management to change the status quo.
  • Past change initiatives have been successful and have engaged employees.
  • There is a reason for the change to occur (change isn’t happening simply for the sake of changing) and it is tied to the long term strategic goals, vision and mission of the organization.
  • There is a plan in place for how the organization will support employees throughout the change and after it is implemented.

If you can answer mainly 3’s and 4’s, you are likely ready to move forward with the change initiative. Keep in mind moving forward means beginning to socialize the change with employees to get their buy-in, commitment and involvement and developing your project plan for the change initiative. If you answered mainly 1’s and 2’s, you need to step back and reconsider moving forward with the change initiative at this time. You have work to do! If you try to move forward without being ready, the change initiative is set up to fail from the start.

Begin to engage the organization in change – ensuring that there is an understanding of what needs to happen and why. This doesn’t mean one all-staff meeting with employees will suffice; it rarely does. Rather, reach out in a number of ways to engage employees right from the start – through emails, small group meetings, division meetings, all staff meetings, one-on-one meetings, hallway conversations, etc. I find that if I reach out to employees in any number of ways, I reach the greatest audience. Consider an initial all-staff meeting to highlight and provide understanding about the need for the change, but then follow up with employees to engage them on a more intimate basis where you’ll learn even more about their feelings and thoughts on the change.
Sometimes I’ll have clients tell me it just isn’t worth it. If they can’t engage employees immediately; they just give up and either do not move forward with the change or move forward hoping for the best. Either way is not the answer. Either way is a path to failure – either the change initiative fails or the organization as a whole cannot keep up with competition and continue to grow and prosper and therefore fails.

So – is your organization ready for change?

Related articles:

Getting Employees Engaged in Change Initiatives
Supporting Internal Change Initiatives
The Importance of Communicating Your Change Initiatives
Achieve Change in Your Organization By Showing the Value
Best Practice Steps to Successfully Plan for Change

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