The 3 A’s to Skillfully Manage Organizational Change

a blindfolded man is about to walk off a cliff

Unlike in the natural world where changes evolve without intervention, change in the corporate world must typically be carefully managed if it is to succeed.

We have learned much about successful organizational change in our twenty-plus years of change management consulting helping our clients through the challenging process. It is not news that change is difficult. And it is not news why. Change requires:

1. Acceptance: an acceptance of why things need to change
2. Attitude: an attitude that overcomes resistance to shifting away from the more comfortable status quo
3. Appreciation: a feeling that the change is not to be feared but to be welcomed because of the future it promises

The breadth of the challenge is that it is not just leadership that must adopt the above three “A’s”, but also the workforce at large. The goal is to have enough of your people working together in a new direction or toward a new goal to make the change stick. To do this, you need to have a clear understanding of how many employees agree on where you are headed, why the new direction is imperative, and how they are expected to get there. Then you can begin to determine just which tools for change might be most effective for your unique business strategy, organizational culture and situation.

Here are some change lenses that can help you plan your strategy for change:

Organizational Culture
If your corporate culture is strong and your plan for change is in alignment with the innately agreed-upon way things are done at your organization, then the change will probably not represent an insurmountable shift in values or behaviors. But if your company’s culture is ill-defined or if your culture is what you want to change, then your challenge is far greater. Your vision for the future must be crystal clear and you need to include your employees early in the process so they feel empowered and a sense of ownership of the process.

Leadership and Management
Strong leaders can set the example for change through the positive force of their authenticity, direction-setting, modeling of the new way, empowerment of others and ability to create organizational alignment. Their followers trust them enough to go wherever these powerful leaders lead them.  On the management level, the first step is to include front-line managers in the change process.  The next step is to ensure that managers, and their direct reports, have the critical few skills and behaviors necessary to make the change happen.  Lastly, all processes, practices, systems and measurements must be aligned to support the change.

Choose the change management strategy that will work best in your unique culture and with your mix of talent. For any change to really work, all three—strategy, talent and culture—need to be aligned.

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