How to manage organisational change

How to manage organisational change

29 Nov 2022

This informal CPD article on How to manage organisational change was provided by Ayming UK, who aim to improve Business Operational and Financial Performance.

Understanding process, people and culture

Change is hard – usually, for individuals, and almost always for organisations. As an employee, even if upheaval turns out to benefit us personally, the uncertainty beforehand is unsettling at best. For organisations, the uncertainty is compounded by their scale and complexity, and external factors beyond their control.

These threats and opportunities usually emanate from one or more of these quarters:

  • Markets: Changing customer expectations, competition, or supply costs cannot be ignored. Whether businesses anticipate or evolve in response to these changes will determine their viability.
  • Technology: Innovations and technological breakthroughs or convergence disrupt existing markets and incumbents, and they can tilt competitive advantage in favour of new entrants.
  • Society: Social trends – which shift more quickly in our digitally connected age – affect not just customers’ tastes and expectations, but also those of our existing and prospective employees and other stakeholders, including investors. 
  • Regulation: Companies’ operations may be seriously impacted by legislation and new standards in multiple spheres from environmental protection and carbon impacts to competition rules and policies on employee or consumer rights, safety or quality.

The only viable options for any enterprise that is going to survive or thrive is to innovate and adapt. In nature, the cycle of growth and decline dictates that a new generation is born, learns, develops values and beliefs, passes on this experience if it can, to be succeeded by the next generation. In business, the same fundamental law applies, though an organisation can extend its life cycle through self-renewal.

What determines this capacity for renewal or reinvention?

Organisations are composed of complex systems made up of multiple teams, departments, and functions, whose operations may span regions, countries or continents. It is their people and knowhow that make adaptation and long-term success possible.

However, this human factor also breeds unpredictability that makes change management so challenging. Even if the rationale for change is sound, and plans are otherwise thought through, implementation will fail if this people dimension is neglected, as the change programme will not win the hearts and minds of employees.

In order to secure people’s commitment and trust, it is necessary to recognise and influence their perceptions, emotions and expectations around the planned change. As when leading a team to boost performance, this means following basic principles:

  • Explain the vision and objectives
  • Consult, and if possible, involve people
  • Communicate clearly and often
  • Provide appropriate support as required
  • Review progress and refine the change process if necessary
Change management in business

Change programmes, if they are to maximise their chance of success, must take account of the different roles people play and the culture of the organisation as well as the change process itself. The process will specify the steps involved in managing the activities required to implement change and help people adapt to new ways of working. People have different roles in a change programme – and change managers need to be clear on responsibilities, potential conflicts and emotional pressures, and interrelationships.

The change leader initiates and provides the vision for change, along with high-level support to the implementation team, and visible support to people across the organisation. It is the responsibility of the person overseeing the change management process – the change manager or change agent – to ensure that everyone affected understands why change is necessary and what they need to do.

These participants will have contrasting views and expectations, which must be managed. Some will be advocates, recognising the need and the benefits of change. Advocates can exert a positive influence on concerned colleagues, which should be harnessed where possible – for example, when reforming teams in merged departments.

Organisational culture is a core factor in change. The ingrained mindset and ‘way of doing things around here’ is often the most insurmountable barrier. Cultural change is a long-term and challenging transformational process that requires sustained communication and consultation around company values and behaviours at all levels of the organisation.

Any change programme, whatever its scale, should be reconciled as far as possible with this cultural context. Change projects that are seen to go with the grain of the culture will be easier to absorb for individuals and the organisation.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Ayming UK, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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