Suppose you have a persistent group in your organization who has been completing its job the same way for a significant period of time. They refuse to change despite multiple suggestions on areas where the team could improve. Why will the team not accept the change?
The group refuses to change because it does not see benefits of changing. Transforming an organization is a time consuming process and change agents will commonly go for the home run when implementing change. Spontaneously implementing a “large” scale change event every few years will lead to changes not supported by employees. Employees need to see the short-term wins, organizational improvement that can be implemented in 3 to 18 months. These short wins will create momentum and keep the organization engaged.
Organizational change is not a one-sized fits all solution. I size change into one of three sections:
- Small: Small scoped, operational changes that are not dramatic changes to the organization. The scope of the change is contained in one function, department or level. For example, removing waste from your current processes (See my blog post on Organizational Hoarding for more).
- Medium: Medium sized changes commonly span more than one function, department, or level within the organization. For example, ...re-defining a new workflow that spans across departments like release processes.
- Large: Large scope changes span across numerous functions, departments and/or levels, involving a large number of people. These are changes that are radically new or foreign to the organization’s current environment or culture. For example, introducing new performance review practices, huge organizational structure/team/people design, a Fail Fast, Fail Often methodology, or continuous delivery/integration.
In my previous blog post titled “Is change ever over? Do we need middle management?”, I discuss how an organization must move from sporadic transformations to an environment setup to continually change if wants to succeed in today’s ever-evolving environment. Implementing major change takes time. Organizations cannot continually rollout “large” scale changes one after another. This will lead to chaos. Instead, the change agents should implement a few smaller, operational changes in between larger, strategic changes. Implementing these smaller changes will give the change efforts immediate visibility, manage the resisters of change, and provide all three layers (i.e. top, middle, and operational)) of the organization real feedback about the validity of the change.
The Change Team will learn how to work together
More importantly, the knowledge the ‘change team’ will gain from working together on small ‘quicker’ changes will help them evolve to a more cohesive, stronger team. The change team will go through phases that all teams do. Bruce Tuskman defined the five step process that most teams follow to achieve high performance. Many newly formed change teams never progress beyond the first stage: forming. In this stage, team members are cautious, positive and polite. Some might be anxious with the new team members. It is imperative that the change team moves past this stage and onto the next stages quickly. The team will need to deal with its own dysfunctions before it can tackle the organizations’. The longer the change team remains uncomfortable with each other, the longer implementing change will take. Team members must feel comfortable enough to giving and receiving feedback. Rolling out change cannot be done individually, the team must roll out the change as a unit together. Change teams are a microcosm of the organization. They need to update their membership regularly to provide new insights, perspectives, and to adapt to the ever-changing environment.
At the end of the day, the organization’s main goal is to continue delivering products or services, not implement changes. As change agents, your role is to make the implementation of changes as seamless as possible. Smaller sized chunks will prevent a large disruption in the workflow. The changes will allow the employees to grow accustomed to environment that is continually evolving, refocus the status quo and continue to make the organization deliver high value services.