How would you grade your organization’s effectiveness at managing change? Chances are, there is room for improvement. Of the 655 leaders we surveyed, just 46 percent said their organization was successful at change management. About a third also noted their companies had a poor track record of managing change.
We wanted to find out what it takes to succeed in this area and what differentiates companies that do this well. Here are seven best practices we uncovered.
1. Having clarity of purpose and objectives
Before leaders can get employees to buy into the change, the leaders themselves must have a clear understanding of what they need to achieve, why it’s necessary and how they will measure success.
2. Having leaders at all levels who are effective change managers
The effectiveness of top leadership was a defining characteristic among the highest-performing organizations we surveyed, but it’s not enough for a few senior leaders to have the ability to manage change well.
Leaders at all levels, especially those responsible for carrying out most of the specific tasks related to change, must be able to prepare their teams for what’s ahead and be able to steer them in the right direction when they encounter obstacles. They must have the qualities that are critical to strategy execution, including:
- Action Orientation – The ability to take quick, practical actions to correct something.
- Problem Solving – The ability to find the cause of and solution to a complex issue.
- Decision Making – The ability to weigh the pros and cons of situations and take the best action possible.
- Results Orientation – An understanding of what results are most important to the strategy and the ability to focus on achieving them
- Leading Cross-Functional Teams – The ability to influence others when they don’t have established authority.
3. Allocating adequate resources
All too often, we see new initiatives fail because no one bothered to ensure they had proper funding and staff dedicated to ensuring they could flourish. Leaders are reluctant to shift resources away from existing programs so they simply add new ones. With so many other programs competing for employees’ time and attention, something has to give and usually, it’s the new initiative.
4. Communicating a clear and appealing vision
Imagine you and your leaders are on the campaign trail, and your employees are candidates who are still undecided about their support. What is the big, inspiring story that will motivate them to back your position? What’s in it for them? The best leaders can explain this simply in a way that evokes emotion.
5. Maintaining momentum and enthusiasm
Employees may agree with your vision initially, but they’re likely to become frustrated or disillusioned along the way, especially if they don’t see immediate progress. Find ways to keep the conversation going through short town hall information sessions, surveys and casual conversation. Ask them for their honest feedback often, and be willing to listen. Be honest about what you don’t know, and commit to updating employees when those details are finalized.
6. Anticipating and addressing obstacles to implementation
Problems are inevitable, but the best leaders have the ability to foresee potential issues and take proactive steps to prevent them. In the planning stages, set aside time for your team to discuss concerns and identify as many issues as possible. Then, outline preventive measures and contingency plans.
7. Aligning the performance management system
Once you’ve implemented a new initiative, make sure you have a method in place to clarify expectations, reinforce new behaviours, and evaluate employees based on the new objectives. Otherwise, they will have no incentive to work toward those goals. Periodic and annual performance reviews and quarterly goals need to reflect the changes your organization has made.