We came across a good article recently on the difficulties of “organizational change management” – and what to do about them. It’s an issue every company faces at one time or another, and although the author (Eric Kimberling of Panorama Consulting) normally opines about most things ERP, his comments are apropos of most any organization that is challenged by change. We’ll share those thoughts here today.
Speaking specifically of ERP software projects (but really, of any structural organizational change), Kimberling notes that change resistance can come from every level of the organization. Executives may fear that the change does not align with their goals and objectives. Others may feel their voices were not heard. End-users may resist because they don’t understand why change is even necessary (or worse, we might add, the dreaded “… but we’ve always done it this way.”)
Once you’ve identified root causes of the resistance, Kimberling suggests four strategies to help employees accept change:
- Understand objections. Too often, the importance of listening is overlooked. Employees generally care, often a lot – and simply want (and need) to be heard. Readiness assessments, surveys and focus groups can help. But don’t discount the value of simply asking, listening and communicating thoughtfully.
- Encourage employee engagement. As Kimberling states: “By involving employees in key decisions, they will be more likely to support organizational changes.” Employers should strive to help employees understand how the change relates to them specifically, if they want to create a sense of ownership.
- Communicate organizational goals. Directly communicate with employees about the changes, the impact, the effects on them, and the reasons behind the change initiative. Talk about tangible goals, other examples or past successes. Focus on outcomes in order to create a desire for change.
- Finally, don’t give up. Any employee can become an advocate for change, but it takes time. Don’t lose hope in your team. Instead, he suggests, “focus on converting the strongest, loudest dissenters so they can use their energy for good.”
The most effective change management strategies require planning and communication well beyond the bullet points on a memo. Take your time, plan, and communicate constantly. As many business owners will tell you, change is about the hardest thing to master in business.