By Laura Gramling, President, EnSpark Consulting
What is needed for organizational change to stick? New conversations that inspire and inform everyone in the organization about what matters now. When there is a shift in the organization’s strategy and aspirations, we need to address why these shifts are important and the impact on how work gets accomplished.
- New strategies will not last if the design of how work is accomplished and managed is not aligned.
- Conversations about the new aspirations will disappear if there are no structures to reinforce the desired changes.
- Key to real change is evaluating and reinventing organizational structures and systems to support the desired future throughout the organization.
At their best, organizational structures and systems enable employees to work collaboratively and effectively to achieve an organization’s mission and goals. From organizational charts to performance reviews to communications, we need to assess if these systems, as they are currently designed, will facilitate the desired changes or if they need to be altered or reinvented.
Real Change Assessment
With an assessment completed, you can map out what needs to alter or be invented to support the new future. These conversations should involve multiple levels and groups throughout the organization. Engaging staff with meaningful opportunities to contribute to the organization’s future direction is a smart way to build support and commitment for the change as it occurs. The assessment process becomes a change management tool to identify gaps between the “as is” and “to be” environment and to build staff readiness for what’s next.
X-Factor for Success – Impact of Your Organizational Culture and Leadership on Real Change
Assessing and reinventing structures and systems to best support the organizational change is foundational. Without that, the new strategies and aspirations will not last.
Your organizational culture must also be a match for the new changes.
How we treat each other and what values are espoused vs what is done vs what is rewarded needs to be consistent for the desired changes to last. For example, when there is a disconnect between what is espoused and what is rewarded, apathy and distrust sets in. Staff will look to the leaders for what really matters and act accordingly.
Too many change efforts or mixed messages from leadership will lead to change fatigue and here again, staff will respond with the least amount of effort. While the new aspirations could be ambitious and require many aspects of organizational life to shift, clarity about the most important priorities and consistency from leaders is paramount to sustain the overall change efforts.
Leadership must set the tone for the importance and long-view of the change.
Real Change Leadership Stance
- Inspiring a new narrative about what possible, what’s next for the organization
- Clear and transparent about what matters most and why
- Accountable for ensuring all staff are engaged and empowered to contribute their best
- Create an environment of high-trust and high-performance
- Adaptability, reliability and accountability starts with them and they lead the way for this to be in action throughout the organization
- Balancing commitment to the new changes (“this will happen”) vs. being too prescriptive (“must be done this way”), allow staff to contribute to the day-to-day shifts
Sustainable real change requires leadership, organizational structures and systems and culture to be in alignment and collectively inspire the rest of the organization to be part of the new conversation.
Aguirre, DeAnne with Rutger von Post and Micah Alpern (2013). Culture’s Role in Enabling Organizational Change in Strategy &, Booz & Company Publishers.
Kotter, John (1988). Leading Change. Boston, MA, USA: Harvard Business Press.
Schein, Edgar (2017). Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA: Prentice-Hall.