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How to Respond to Organizational Change

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/24/2011

Organizational change can be quite stressful - especially when it involves many job-description changes. Learn how to weather the storm and come out on top by using change management methodologies to help manage organizational changes.

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    Why Worry about Organizational Change?

    When things change, it creates stress and panic for all involved - especially those at the bottom of the ladder. For example, if your organization formerly had department managers, and now that job has been done away with who does Amy, the lead report to? When facing organizational change it is vital to face it in an organized and realistic manner. In fact, many of the principles of change management apply to organizational change management.

    Before you can understand organizational change, it is important to look at some of the reasons behind organizational change. Organizational change occurs because:

    • A new strategy for success is needed
    • A new division has been created
    • A new operation has been created
    • New processes have been implemented

    There are also different levels of organizational change. These four levels are:

    1. Shaping and anticipating the organization's future - changes at this level occur when a company is still trying to define who it is and what it does in the marketplace. For example, new companies often go through organizational change when they move from getting the word out (quantity) to creating a great reputation (quality).
    2. (Re) defining the business to be in or core fundamentals of your business - changes here occur when the company has been around for a little while, but needs a new strategy for success or creates new divisions and operations.
    3. Process restructuring - changes here occur when you change how the work is done. For example, now that the business is fairly stable, processes may be restructured in order to streamline productivity.
    4. Process improvement - over time, quality improvement efforts will lead to the refining and improvement of processes. In a widget factory, for example, perhaps there is still too high a level of defects in a sample population. Quality improvement efforts then require process improvements - leading to organizational change and a need to manage these changes.

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    Applying Change Management Methodologies to Organizational Change Management

    picture Change management methodologies and the construction of a change management plan are vital for implementing organizational change. In order to understand how to apply change management methodologies to your organizational change, you must first understand the following change management principles that will determine the success of your organizational change project:

    • You must create a sense of urgency surrounding the change
    • You must communicate clearly about what organizational change will entail
    • You must have a company environment conducive to change
    • The employees must share in the vision for change
    • You must involve stakeholders in the change
    • You must engage all levels of leadership in the change (if they aren't on board how can you expect anyone to be on board?)
    • Integrate project management best practices into the change
    • Enhance organizational performance and reinforce desirable behavior

    To establish organizational change, there are three phases. These are:

    1. Determining the type of change and how to implement the change
    2. Managing the change - this produces the following deliverables;
    • A communication plan
    • A stakeholder roadmap
    • Training and coaching plans
    • A plan for handling change resistance

    3. Reinforcement of the change

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    Determining the Type of Organizational Change

    The first phase in change management involves determining the type of change that will occur. When it comes to organizational change, the answer to the question, "What type of change do we make?" may already be prescribed. Perhaps a department is being added. In this case, maybe a few key players from other departments will move. The question is: What changes have to be managed and how will they be managed? Change comes in a few different varieties. These are:

    • Changes in procedures
    • Changes in overall business structure
    • Changes in the leadership structure

    The best way to determine the type of organizational change that your business requires is to follow the first stage of project planning: defining the project scope. The reason this is so important in organizational change is that scope creep can completely undermine your efforts. If you don't plan out the change - and the degree of change ahead of time, then you could have serious problems later when you decide you've tried to change too much. Tip: Try to stick to just one of those three types of change when instituting a change management plan.

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    Managing Organizational Change

    picture Once you have defined the scope of your project, it is time to build your plan and put things into action. In addition to the deliverables listed on the previous page, you will want to draw up a full change management plan. The change management plan will include the following items:

    • The structure or procedure your business will be changing to
    • A risk assessment
    • A budget
    • A schedule
    • A plan for the teams involved with the change
    • A communication plan
    • How the change will be effected

    By taking the time to plan these items out, as well as any training and coaching that will need to occur in implementing the change, you can stave off disaster in your organizational change before hit has time to take hold. But this isn't enough. Not everyone will be receptive to the change. Your job, then is to come up with a plan on how you will deal with those resistant to change. Not all resistance is combative in nature. Instead, some resistance comes from denial or even ignorance about the reasons for the change. One way to help keep resistance to a minimum is to be completely transparent to those affected by the change.

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    Reinforcing Organizational Change

    Once the change management plan is underway, it is vital that you follow up on the changes and reinforce the change management plan. As the change is carried out, steps must be taken to correct mistakes and lapses to the old ways - and praise should be given to those who are following the new protocols. During this phase of the organizational change, open communication is mandatory. Without open communication, you won't know what isn't working in the change management process. Instead, you need to create a process for feedback during the final phase of organizational change.