Great leaders are experts at managing change within organizations. They have the tools and skills necessary to navigate the complexities of organizational change, including effective communication, stakeholder engagement, and resilience-building. So, how can new or seasoned leaders become better at managing change within their organization? What are the best tips for leading successful change initiatives and driving positive transformation?
We recently asked our leading executives how they manage change in an organization.
Here are their responses...
Ana Smith, Leadership Development & Learning Strategist
In today's fast-paced and dynamic business environment, organizations must be adept at managing and sustaining change to stay competitive and thrive. However, navigating the complexities of change can be daunting without a structured approach. I want to offer a comprehensive framework that will guide folks through the process of managing and sustaining (also critical) change in your organization, ensuring long-term success and growth.
- Establish a Clear Vision: The first step in managing change is to establish a clear vision. Clearly articulate why change is necessary and how it aligns with your organization's strategic objectives. Develop a compelling vision statement that communicates the benefits and expected outcomes of the proposed changes. This will serve as a guiding light for your change initiatives.
- Develop a Change Management Plan: A well-structured change management plan is crucial for success. Conduct a thorough assessment of your organization's current state, identifying areas that require change and potential obstacles. Based on this assessment, create a detailed plan that outlines specific objectives, milestones, timelines, resource requirements, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. A solid plan will provide a roadmap for your change journey.
- Secure Leadership Commitment: Change initiatives require strong leadership commitment. Engage and secure a commitment from top leadership to drive the change process actively. Establish a dedicated change management team with clear roles and responsibilities, ensuring representation from various departments and levels within the organization. Strong leadership support will inspire and motivate employees throughout the change process.
- Engage and Empower Employees: Successful change management relies on the active involvement and empowerment of employees. Foster a culture of collaboration by engaging employees at all stages of the change process. Communicate transparently, providing opportunities for employees to voice their concerns, ask questions, and contribute their ideas. This involvement will foster a sense of ownership and commitment among employees.
- Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate Effectively: Effective and recurrent communication is vital for change management. Develop a comprehensive communication plan that ensures consistent messaging and transparency throughout the change journey. Utilize various channels such as town halls, emails, newsletters, and the company intranet to disseminate information, address concerns, and celebrate successes. Open and transparent communication builds trust and buy-in from employees.
- Build Change Capability: To sustain change, organizations must build change management capability. Invest in training and development programs to enhance employees' change management skills and build their resilience to adapt to future changes. Establish feedback mechanisms to capture lessons learned and continuously improve the change management process. Building change capability ensures that your organization remains agile and ready to embrace future transformations.
- Monitor and Measure Progress: Regularly monitor and measure the progress of your change initiatives against the established KPIs. This will help you assess the effectiveness of your strategies and identify areas that require adjustments. Be open to feedback and lessons learned and be willing to adapt your change management plan accordingly. Continuous evaluation and improvement are crucial for long-term success.
- Reinforce and Celebrate Success: Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements throughout the change journey. Reinforce positive behavior by integrating change initiatives into the organization's performance management system. By recognizing and rewarding employees' contributions, you create a culture that values and sustains change over the long term.
Michael Willis, Sports Business Operations Executive
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Working at the NFL for 22 ½ years, I see management going about change in two different ways.
Scenario 1 – Sometimes C-suite executives will need the company to change direction to fit a new business model being developed.
As a result of this new business model, a new executive-level position is created to oversee the company pivot. The hire will be sworn to secrecy as their job is to go in a different direction without immediately giving all the details to the staff. Further instructions might be to terminate anyone resistant to the change. This is a way for a company to eliminate team members that want to keep everything the same. New hires aren’t connected to the past and are less reluctant to change.
Scenario 2 – This is a way that we expect change to happen.
- Make a Plan – Before bringing a proposed change to the team, you must ensure that your plan covers the who, why, when, and where on a timeline to keep the project in focus.
- Transparency – As the company changes unfold, sometimes parts of the planning might have to remain private. But everything else is open for questions and answers. Discuss what you can discuss. Explain the vision of the company.
- Tell the Truth – When there is negative feedback, and the team’s long-term vision seems doubtful, you must keep the group together with the possibility of setbacks and chatter for other areas.
- Communicate – Keep the lines of communication open between you and your team. Allow them to ask questions. Make the employees feel part of the process. And the solutions.
- Provide Training and Testing – Before you launch or implement the change, allow for hands-on training or run a mock testing period. Invite participation and feedback. Don’t expect success to happen quickly. You must figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
- Leadership – This is where your leadership skills will be needed front and center. This is your test. You are responsible for everything. Good or bad. What works and what doesn’t work. You own it. Did you create a good plan? Did you explain it right? Execute it right?
Michael Willis has 18+ years of experience working with accounting & sports organizations and has managed P&Ls of $10M - $125M+ with budgets of $3M-$50M+. He worked for the NFL for 22 1/2 years, mainly with the game officials working on the financial/accounting side of the business.
John Schembari, Senior Education Executive
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Managing change in an organization can go off the rails no matter how well thought out or planned. My colleagues Ana and Michael have provided sound advice on how to make a change process "likely" go smoothly.
However, change efforts can fail for many reasons and these elephants in the room need to be addressed if the C-suite executive charged with implementing change will live to see another day:
- Who is leading the change is often as important as what the change is: someone who is new/brought into an organization to lead change as opposed to someone on the inside will need to proceed with both caution and clarity. Get allies to commit to the change leader and the change process before inevitable political conflict arises.
- Despite even the best laid-out rationale, some staff will not get on board with change. Personal goals will always triumph over collective ones. How will these staff members be addressed with compassion without undermining the change process?
- Both of my colleagues addressed the need for inclusivity and multiple voices in any change process. This is imperative if people are indeed to be vested in the success of any change plan. It also helps undermine the blame game when things go wrong because everyone is complicit.
Kathryn Marshburn, Artist & Label Partnerships
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As a result of working for companies like Electronic Arts (EA), Spotify, and Atlantic Records, I have experienced effective plans for change. Many companies enjoy the title as an "industry disruptor" but does that have to come at a cost? Strategies for rapid change, including technology announcements with little structure or planning for roll-outs and corporate advancement initiatives that include new standards, can cause stress and pushback. The technology race has caused organizations to operate differently from using automation for physical goods to AI, or even data analytics and cloud computing. All of these technological innovations have caused significant change and at times can be stressful to initiate.
I've seen leadership emerge from these crucial points of company growth in a positive way and some have failed. From my experiences, I'll share best practices that seem to be successful and may be helpful if experiencing workplace changes.
1. Companies should develop a digital transformation strategy: This includes a well-defined digital plan that aligns with overall business objectives, where the organization can effectively communicate the vision for the change and set the stage.
2. Cultural intelligence: All companies have a cultural essence within their organization that includes cultivating a mindset that embraces different perspectives like innovation adaptability, technology advancements, and more. These areas should be cultivated and supported to encourage experimentation collaboration and risk-taking.
3. Engage and empower employees: Employees at all levels should be contributing to the overall focus in the process of goals within a company. This can be achieved by effective communication, providing training/professional development opportunities, and support involving stakeholders in decision-making processes by making all active participants. These best practices advocate for digital transformation and organizations can minimize resistance and create a sense of ownership and enthusiasm for the change.
4. Address areas and skill gaps: New technology often requires new training for organizations and this must be identified and addressed if there are any skill gaps. This involves providing targeted training programs, mentoring, and upscaling opportunities by investing in employee professional development.
5. Constantly adapting and innovating: The entertainment and music industry landscape is characterized by constant evolution and disruption. Seems to me that there can be no other vertical that changes more than the music industry! Stakeholders and employees will learn to adapt and innovate regularly, evaluating the impact of new technology and creating a culture of acceptance of change if thought and effective communication are put into the change plan.
I hope these best practices help you if change is happening in your company and I hope you can use these ideas as reference points for change management!
Kathryn Marshburn has spent 12+ years in the music and gaming industries guiding teams on identifying targeted goals with an agile approach resulting in driving revenue and reducing risk.
Lisa Perry, Global Marketing Executive
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Change is inevitable in today's fast-paced business world, and organizations must embrace it to stay competitive and relevant. As a brand marketer, I’ve played a crucial role in managing change and ensuring its successful implementation within Fortune 100 companies and emerging growth start-ups. Here are seven strategies that have benefitted me as I’ve helped companies navigate the complexities of change management:
1. Develop a Strategy
Before embarking on any change initiative, developing a strategy to drive business objectives is essential, aligning you and your team to the overall organization’s vision. A strategy can provide a shared vision for the organization, providing a purpose for everyone to embrace and rally around.
2. Empower & Involve Employees
Change is not a one-person show; it requires collective effort. Empower and support your employees by involving them in the change process and giving them the tools and knowledge they need to make and act upon their own decisions. When individuals feel valued and have a sense of ownership, they become active participants in driving change. Foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and continuous learning, where employees feel encouraged to embrace new working methods.
3. Establish Priorities & Gain Alignment
Change initiatives often involve multiple moving parts and competing priorities. To ensure successful implementation, it is essential to establish clear priorities, gain alignment across the organization, and regularly evaluate progress to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and efforts are focused on the most impactful changes to achieve business results.
4. Provide Adequate Resources & Training
Change often requires acquiring new skills, knowledge, and tools. Ensure your team and other stakeholders have the necessary resources and training to adapt to the change. Identify any skill gaps and provide targeted training programs. Offer ongoing support to help individuals overcome challenges and develop the competencies required for the new environment. Equipping your team with the right tools and knowledge sets the stage for successful change implementation.
5. Monitor Progress & Celebrate Milestones
Change is a journey, and monitoring progress along the way is crucial. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the impact of the change initiative. Regularly assess the outcomes and make necessary adjustments. Celebrate milestones and recognize the efforts and achievements of individuals and teams. Positive reinforcement reinforces the idea that change brings progress and encourages further engagement.
6. Address Resistance & Overcome Challenges
Change often faces resistance, and it’s essential to address it proactively. Identify potential sources of resistance and develop strategies to overcome them. Communicate the benefits of the change, address concerns, and provide support to those who may be struggling to adapt. Encourage a growth mindset and foster a culture that embraces change as an opportunity for growth and improvement.
7. Lead by Example
Your actions speak louder than words! Lead by example and demonstrate your commitment to change. Embrace new processes, technologies, and strategies yourself. Show enthusiasm and optimism, even in the face of obstacles. Your behavior and attitude will inspire others to follow suit. Be a role model for resilience, adaptability, and continuous growth, setting the tone for a change-ready organization.
Remember, change starts with you. Embrace change as an opportunity for growth and, together, you and your organization can thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.
Lisa Perry helps companies build leadership brands, driving loyal customers & delivering profitability. She does this through a process that builds brands consumers love. Her goal is to help companies develop, monetize, and grow their brands.
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