It is a rare company that has not weathered some type of organizational change. In fact in recent decades mergers and other forms of restructuring have become almost expected in large companies. However common, these types of organizational changes can lead to confusion, uncertainty and demoralization. By recognizing staff’s need for reassurance, information, and direction, a savvy management team can successfully navigate these potentially stormy times with skill and finesse.
The following three step approach to managing organizational change is a powerful tool. This article will explore the three steps for creating & sharing a new vision, keeping communication channels open, and clarifying roles for the new organization.
Step 1. Create & Share A New Vision
It is imperative to create and convey a constructive vision of the change and how it will impact the entire organization. Depending upon the size of the company, visioning may occur at a board level, a management level, or (in an interactive fashion) with key staff members. The organizational culture may also define the type of input that is most effective for the visioning process. For example, top down organizations will clarify vision before sharing with staff whereas more consensus based organization’s (e.g. non-profits) will likely set up sessions for gathering and discussing staff input. While it is valuable to gain staff input and feedback, the main issue is often timeliness. When an organization is undergoing profound change, the sooner the new vision is communicated the better! Like a ship without a rudder, an organization without vision will soon flounder on the shoals. Savvy managers know the value of quickly agreeing upon organizational vision, stating it in understandable terms and sharing it via multiple forums. These forums can include meetings, teleconferences, emails, newsletters, and written collateral. Reinforcing the new vision during follow-up communications is essential as it may require multiple messages over time to help staff understand the new organization.
Step 2: Keep Communication Channels Open
Once the organizational vision has been communicated, management teams need to set up channels for ensuring ongoing two-way communication with teams and individuals. If staff meetings are already a valued communication strategy, ensure that they are regularly scheduled for weeks and even months after the organizational change is announced. Additionally, it will be valuable for managers to arrange for other communication opportunities including face to face meetings with staff, teleconference sessions, web conferences and more. Staff will have key insights about potential roadblocks to implementing the vision and these need to be considered and planned for in conjunction with team members. By being open to challenges, and also inviting staff to brainstorm solutions, management teams will gain support for implementing the new vision.
Step 3: Clarify Roles That Fit The New Organization
Equally important to clarifying organizational vision, is clarifying individual vision. What should each staff member do to support the organization? How does their work support the overall vision? If significant shifts have occurred new teams and roles may need to be defined. Some roles may no longer be needed. The role clarification process can serve as a time of renewal as staff with key skill sets may be utilized in new ways. Bottom line, each member of the organization should be able to articulate how their work will support the overall vision of the company, and in turn, how they can support others in their staff team. Again, open and ongoing communication is essential as role clarification often occurs over time. While broad brush strokes are required immediately upon organizational change, details of roles may not get filled in for several months as the change unfolds within the organization. Savvy managers can create processes that enable staff and teams to discuss, shape and refine roles as time goes by.
By keeping these three steps in mind and involving staff teams in part step of the process, management teams can reduce confusion, uncertainty and helplessness. Moreover, by getting employees on board with the new vision, communicating regularly, and involving them in role clarification processes, organizations can optimize staff skillsets and organizational potential in changing times.
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