The ghost has been out of the bottle for several years. Change management is one of the magic words that drives organizations. Cost reduction programs, quality improvements, culture change and customer focus objective. However, it often does not go smoothly with all the wonderful initiatives. Change remains unruly.
There are essentially three main factors that frustrate change. Communication, leadership and non-committal.
Many changes are not developed within the line itself, but by project teams. Valuable employees are [partly] removed from the line to realize the changes. Communication between project teams and the line organization is often poor. Project organizations keep the lid on the well until the concept is fully developed. A constant flow of rumors is the result.
Within change management, a lot of attention is often paid to involving employees. Yet they often feel cheated because they are allowed to participate in the conversation, but are unable to participate in the decision-making process. This means that there is no added value for employees. So it does happen.
When transferring the change from the project team to the line organization, a cow trade arises about the actual implementation. Because attempts are made to avoid resistance, adjustments are quickly made, so that the intended results are never achieved. People are also often mistaken about the ‘cultural change’ that must take place. It is considered sacred, so that in the absence of change on this point, the actual change [the project] dies a silent death.
What works then? When implementing changes, it is imperative that the organization understands the change. So don’t make it unnecessarily complex, diffuse due to difficult terminology and above all be concrete. Think about who needs to make the change.
- Involve the line organization. Make sure that the line organization is not excluded. Be open and immediately take the criticism into the change. This prevents a lot of unnecessary hassle afterwards and increases the chance of success. The line owns the change.
- Expectation down, result upward. Provide a management system within which you can monitor expectations and results. In addition, ensure horizontal information exchange. The best incentive for change is demonstrable results.
- Do what works! Look at things that already work or are present in the organization and expand on that. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. Employees accept faster and feel more involved when they recognize themselves in the change and to which they can make a concrete contribution. Also, don’t be afraid to accept and admit failures. That is better than against muddling against better judgment.
- Focus on results. Start from concrete objectives. Such as improving lead time by xx%. Work out concrete steps with employees to achieve this. Don’t always look for it in big steps. Many small stones also make a big mountain.
- Focus on the primary process. It is this process where the essence of the change takes place. This process from customer to supplier is therefore leading. The employees in the line often know better than anyone where the ‘holes and pitfalls’ are. Use that knowledge.
- Create a continuous learning process. Change is like life. Many mistakes before we take a step forward. Behavioral change has the same principle. Accept that mistakes are made during the process. They are essential for organizational learning.
- Communication and relationships. It cannot be said often enough. Both the formal and the informal channels in your organization are essential in this respect. In many projects it is called every time, but apparently this still goes wrong. Then it is highly likely that the mutual relationships do not function properly. Credibility plays a role in this.
- Leadership. Integrity and credibility of the leadership is an important condition that the story of the change actually arrives. A good story offers focus and inspiration, but if integrity is lacking, it falls into rhetoric. Not all ‘leaders’ are allowed to be inspiring. Not everyone is Richard Branson. Do not imitate them. Stay true to yourself.
- Concrete results visible. What works better than showing employees what their efforts are. Not only the internal results but also externally, such as more satisfied customers. Briefly discuss this daily with the employees. This strengthens and maintains the focus on the change. Also show how it positively influences their own work.
- A deal is a deal. If the concrete objectives have been agreed with the line organization, do not skimp on it afterwards because it is so difficult. Change is difficult. The organization will go to an initial one