Employee engagement

7 Organizational Change Management Frameworks That Stick

Emily Smith
January 17, 2020
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In any business environment, change happens. Let’s rephrase: In any business environment, change should happen. It shows you're committed to the kind of growth and evolution it takes to stay modern, relevant, and competitive. 

Countless factors make change inevitable. Think of technological advancements, globalization, cultural shifts, and shifting economies. And since nobody's corporate goals include falling behind or growing stale, embracing change is a must.

But what kind of change are we talking about here? Change can include things like:

  • Introducing new software or updating marketing practices
  • Updated business processes
  • A full-on restructuring
  • Leadership changes
  • Updated thinking
  • New project management tools
  • Budget constraints
  • Shifts in strategy

These all fall under the umbrella of organizational change. If you’re already on board with shaking things up, you’re ahead of the game. And you're not alone. 

According to Gartner, 99% of all organizations have undergone a major organizational change in the last three years. But big or small, change doesn't happen naturally. Therefore, effective change requires a clear action plan. 

What is Organizational Change Management? 

Simply put, organizational change management is a game plan. It’s a methodology that helps businesses adapt to adjustments of all kinds. It helps employees and stakeholders prepare and set expectations for coming change. It helps businesses roll out and acclimate to change.

To say this concept is broad and open-ended is an understatement. This is by design. The idea exists to support whatever your organization comes up against that doesn’t involve business as usual.

Organizational Change Management techniques 

There are countless OCM methods out there. Each involves a basic series of steps or practices that could be linear or cyclical in approach. Some of the most popular methods include:

  1. Kotter 8-Step Process for Leading Change: Create → Build  → Form → Enlist →  Enable → Generate → Sustain  → Institute
  2. McKinsey & Company’s 7-S Framework: Style, Skills, Systems, Structure, Staff, and Strategies = Shared Values & Goals
  3. Kurt Lewin’s Change Model: Unfreeze → Change → Refreeze
  4. ADKAR Model: Awareness → Desire → Knowledge → Ability → Reinforcement
  5. The Kübler-Ross Model: Shock → Anger → Bargaining → Depression → Acceptance
  6. Satir Change Management Model: Late Status Quo → Resistance → Chaos → Integration → New Status Quo
  7. William Bridges’ Transition Model: Ending → Neutral Zone → New Beginnings

However, there is no right or wrong in terms of which method to choose. Any method can facilitate smooth transitions and positive change. The best method depends on organization and stakeholder needs and preferences. Methods are generally seen as interchangeable.

Regardless of the method being applied, let’s get an overarching sense for how organizational change management happens. One of the most popular and widely accepted guiding approaches out there is The Association of Professional Change Management (ACMP) Standard for Change Management.

The ACMP Standard includes a definition of practices, processes, tasks and activities for change management. It also includes guidance for any type of change and generally accepted practices and processes across industries, organizations, and roles.

standard for change management

Here’s how the association breaks down organizational change management across companies and industries:

Step 1: Evaluating change impact and organizational readiness

  • Examine the proposed change, how it will impact the organization, and whether the organization is ready

Step 2: Formulating change management strategy

  • Develop an approach for taking the organization from point A to point B while achieving specific outcomes

Step 3: Developing change management plans

  • Document scope, actions, timelines, and resources 

Step 4: Executing change management plans

  • Address implementation by monitoring, measuring, and controlling delivery against baseline plans

Step 5: Closing the change management effort

  • Documents the actions and resources needed to close the change

Moreover, breaking the organizational change management process into doable parts makes it more manageable. It also provides a framework and a clear vision for everyone on board. It’s key to make sure you’re all working toward the same goal.

Organizational Change Management challenges

Business transitions require support because change is hard. It’s unfamiliar. It’s disruptive and can feel threatening. It has the ability to cause confusion, delays in timelines, frustrated employees, lower productivity, and beyond.

Organizational change management helps stakeholders get buy-in for their business case. It helps foresee, prepare, and handle change-related issues. It’s about recognizing all of the ways that change impacts things. From there, change management makes the process as painless as possible for everyone involved.

It’s important to look at employee involvement during this process. 

Let’s be real. Organizations can’t run without people power. That’s why companies should involve employees in the organization change management process from start to finish, whether through something as involved as an online focus group, or simple as a survey. Without employee buy-in, change management can fail.

But uninvested stakeholders aren’t the only reason organizational change management fails. It also takes a knowledgeable, prepared leadership, and an HR team that is equipped for the process. The top three reasons that change management fails are:

  1. Poorly planned integration approaches
  2. Incorrect target or goal identification
  3. Delayed implementation

These issues lie with the change management planners. They are tasked with identifying a change process that will work for their business. From there, they must keep the project on time and on target.

Making changes that stick

Some 70% of all organizational change transformations fail, according to McKinsey. Gartner begs to differ, with research that shows 50% of organizational change efforts are considered a clear failure. But that’s still pretty darn dismal!

organizational change success

Change has to happen. But if nearly half of all organizational changes are considered failures, how can leaders and stakeholders ensure transitional success? There are a number of ways to make change smoother. 

Get your employees on board

Constant and clear communication are key. 

Keep employees in the loop on vision and strategy. Share your reasoning behind change-making decisions. Allow them to feel heard, and ensure they know what role they’re expected to play. 

One of the easiest ways to ensure this is by conducting an employee engagement survey. Establish a number of open-ended questions to gauge interest in organizational change, or try a focus group for more detailed qualitative responses. 

If you make sure employees are part of the process, they will feel invested. And, they will be more inclined to champion for the cause.

Plan for the worst

Another way that organizational change management success happens is by planning for the worst. Know how you’ll handle things that don’t go according to plan! Expecting setbacks and overcoming hurdles has to be baked into your strategy. It’s the only path to success.

You can’t know when issues will arise. But you can mitigate risk by taking inventory on a regular basis. 

Milestones and timelines may need renegotiating , expectations may need to be reset, and project leads and liaisons could be reevaluated. But, if you expect these things as part of the journey, you won’t be flustered when they happen along the way.

Empower, don’t mandate

Consider this quote from Greg Satell of Harvard Business Review: “Most successful transformations have one thing in common: Change is driven through empowerment, not mandated from the top.”

The most successful outcomes occur by empowering your people and planning for pitfalls. Remember that a successful transformation is about real change. It’s not just about meeting goals. 

Why is Organizational Change Management important? 

Change is inevitable. As the world around us evolves, so must we. And it’s not just one change, just one time.

Organizational change management matters because how people feel about it has a tremendous impact on your entire business. This includes the change itself, but also the entire process, as well as their involvement. Change is meaningless unless the people it impacts on a day-to-day basis are behind it. 

We live in a rapidly changing world that shows no signs of slowing down. But, process-driven dilemmas around change implementation are possible, thanks to organizational change management. 

Choose a method or framework that jives with your company and vision. Check in often. Communicate at every stage. Apply proper project management. 

Then, enjoy the results that come from a well-planned, well-implemented institutional change! And the sound knowledge that your employees are behind a big decision.

This blog post originally appeared on Remesh and is republished with permission.

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