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Why you need to plan for organisational change (And how to do it)

Nobody likes change. It’s something that we all have to put up with though, given its prevalence in life. Change disrupts everything it touches, throwing your plans into disarray and can take months of planning obsolete. Fortunately, there are several key ways to cope with organizational change, with these principles being able to scale from small to large changes that happen in your organization.

Defining The Types of Change

There are several distinct types of organizational change that can occur, each presenting its own set of problems and obstacles to overcome. While changes will vary in size and scale, they’ll almost all fall under one of the following five categories:

1. Organization-Wide Change

2. Transformational Change

3. Personnel Change

4. Unplanned Change

5. Remedial Change

The differences between these types of change can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around, but broadly they can be defined as follows: organization-wide change is anything that affects your entire organization, the transformational change affects your business goals and structure, while remedial change is anything that you do to address low efficiency in your organization. Personnel and unplanned change meanwhile are exactly what they say on the tin, changes in personnel and anything that you weren’t able to account for because nobody can predict everything that’s going to happen in the future.

Why Plan For Organizational Change?

Now you may be thinking, why on earth do I need to plan for changes? Can’t I just implement them? Well, yes and no. You can, but whenever any change occurs it will inevitably cause disruptions in your organization’s efficiency, and can even cause severe morale drops within your workforce. Change isn’t something that people like, and they’ll resist it simply because it’s different from what they know. 

When you’re planning for change, you need to see beyond the change itself and into everything that might be affected through knock-on effects. Are you planning on introducing a new piece of software to replace a less efficient one? Check that existing projects can be transferred over to the new software before you force people to start again from scratch. Hiring a new manager for a department? Make sure they’re up to speed on the nuances of how things are run in order to reduce friction between them and their team.

How To Plan For Organizational Change

When it comes to planning out a change, no matter the type, there are a few things you can do which will help the process greatly. Bear in mind that while all of these factors are important, some will have more weight than others depending on the specifics of the planned change in question. 

  1. Start At the Finish

It might seem counterintuitive to start with the very end of your plan, but that’s where you should begin to plan out your strategy. By laying out exactly what you want to achieve and when, you can work backward to see how you might achieve it, step by step. This can be further simplified by breaking down your plan into smaller goals that need to be achieved rather than focusing entirely on the finish line. By using this step-by-step method you’ll be able to easily see what obstacles will come up at each step, and plan for ways to reduce their impact. 

  1. Account For Employee Resistance

Nobody likes change, and that applies to your personnel too. When changes are implemented you’ll almost always see a drop in productivity from your workforce, not out of laziness or spite but due to factors such as being unfamiliar with the new way of doing things, having to translate to new protocols instead of using old ones, etc. Communication is the key here, with the reasons for change being communicated meaning your team will be far more receptive to the change than if simply given orders. An informed worker is a happier one, and happier ones are more productive.

  1. Use Management As Support

Whenever a change occurs it often comes from high up in the company, and often instructions can seem out of touch with those who have boots on the ground and are performing tasks that will be affected by the change. By using middle management as a support system, you can connect the concerns of the workers with the vision of the CEO and co. without losing too much in translation. By receiving feedback from your personnel as to how the change is progressing, management can alter their plans accordingly and smooth over any rough patches or unforeseen obstacles. Furthermore, those closest to the systems or protocols being changed will often have more insight into what might stand in your way than a member of management too far removed from that area – keep them in the loop and you will receive feedback as to how best to implement the change at their level.

  1. Contextual Learning

Contextual learning is also known as learning “on the job”. Essentially it’s the idea that you can instruct your personnel in new techniques and tools while they are actually working rather than wasting time with lectures and compulsory reading. A good example of this would be using a new database immediately rather than waiting and slowly implementing it over time. Of course, this will require at least one person in a team to know what they are doing in advance, often a team leader or manager, so they can correct any errors as they come up and assist the other members of the team in learning how to use the new protocols. While it may detract from that one person’s time, it’s better than losing an entire team for a period while they get to grips with the new techniques. 

Efrat Vulfsons

Efrat Vulfsons is the CEO of PR Soprano and a publicist, parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.