Change is Coming

Navigating Organisational Change Like a Pro: 10 tips and actions

I can’t even count the number of organisational change initiatives I have been involved in across my 25 year local government career, nor could I count the number of mistakes we made each time!  Organisations I am working with at the moment are either commencing or undergoing significant change, and I’m on the ground talking to the people most affected, and hearing what is causing them distress in the process.

To support staff and the organisation through change, taking a risk management approach and considering these 10 key actions below, will go a long way.  To make this journey as smooth as possible, we need to embrace some good old risk management practices. I wish I had paid more attention to these when I was leading and driving change in the past.

Let’s dive in and see how we can make change feel like a walk in the park.

Risk 1: Lost in Translation – Poor Communication

Action: Keep Everyone in the Loop

Just as a captain relies on the same navigational chart for the entire trip, ensure that all your communications align with the story you’ve established. When communication is unclear, staff may interpret changes differently, leading to confusion and anxiety. Misunderstandings can damage morale and slow down progress. To avoid this, you need to be the communication champ. Keep it transparent and consistent. Explain why the change is happening, how it benefits everyone, and what to expect. Regular updates will help quell those nagging uncertainties.

Risk 2: Left Out in the Cold – Excluding Key Stakeholders

Action: Get Everyone on Board

Change is a team sport, and you can’t play with half the team missing. When key players are left out of the game, you risk hitting roadblocks and potential project failure. Just as a captain assures the crew they will navigate through the unknown together, you must involve stakeholders from the beginning to gain their insights, concerns, and feedback. Involving them helps build ownership and commitment to the change. Make them an integral part of the decision-making process, listen to their suggestions, and address their concerns.

Risk 3: Flying Blind – Inadequate Planning

Action: Chart Your Course Carefully

In the vast expanse of the sea, there are unknowns, and not all answers lie on the surface. Similarly, during change, you might not have all the answers employees seek. This can create anxiety and uncertainty, much like sailing into uncharted waters. It’s important to focus on what you do know and be candid about what you don’t. Just as a captain admits when there are questions without answers, convey your commitment to open and transparent communication. Assure them that you’ll follow up as soon as you have more information. To steer clear of this, plan meticulously. Consider different scenarios and have strategies for each. Identify obstacles and create backup plans. Allocate resources wisely, and you’ll be on the path to a smoother change journey.

Risk 4: Running on Empty – Insufficient Resources

Action: Fuel Up for Success

Ever tried to drive a car on an empty tank? It’s not fun, and your project can feel the same way without enough resources. Insufficient resources can lead to overworked teams, burnout, and project delays. This risk can be countered by allocating the necessary budget and technology resources to support the change initiative. Adequate resources enable teams to work efficiently and stay on track with project timelines.

Risk 5: Lost at Sea – Neglected Training

Action: Train Your Crew

Change is like a new adventure, and your crew needs to be prepared. Neglecting training can leave your team feeling like they’re in uncharted waters, drowning in uncertainty. If employees understand the personal gains from the change, they’re more likely to embrace and take ownership of it. Provide hands-on training sessions and access to learning resources to ensure a smooth transition.

Risk 6: Risky Business – Poor Risk Management

Action: Be a Risk Pro

Imagine trying to cross a river without knowing where the rocks are. Poor risk management is like that – it can lead to project derailment. In such moments, convey your commitment to open and transparent communication, assuring them that you’ll follow up as soon as you have more information, just as a captain assures the crew they will navigate through the unknown together. To avoid this, do a thorough risk assessment. Identify potential challenges, rate them by severity and likelihood, and develop plans to tackle them. Keep an eye on these risks throughout your change journey, and you’ll steer clear of unexpected obstacles.

Risk 7: Lone Wolves – A Lack of Change Champions

Action: Find Your Change Advocates

Change needs cheerleaders, and without them, you risk slow adoption and resistance. To avoid this, identify change champions within the organisation. These change champions play a pivotal role in encouraging acceptance and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Risk 8: Stuck in the Mud – Rigid Adherence to Plans

Action: Embrace Change as it Comes

Sometimes, change doesn’t stick to the script. Rigidly following a plan can lead to unexpected hiccups, derailing your progress and causing frustration. To avoid this, be flexible. Change can be unpredictable, so be ready to adapt when needed. Regularly check your progress, gather feedback, and adjust your plans as new challenges arise. Keep your eye on the prize, but be prepared to change course.

Risk 9: Missing the Signals – Ignoring Feedback

Action: Keep the Feedback Loop Open

Imagine driving a car without a rearview mirror – you’d miss a lot. Ignoring feedback in your change journey is like that. It can lead to frustration and roadblocks. In short, if organisations want employees to adapt to the change, they need to establish two-way communication, involve employees in the change and value their opinions, provide support during resistance (knowing that resistance to change is a natural response), and establish a beneficial strategy (the “what’s in it for me” aspect as change should not only benefit the organisation but also its employees). To counter this risk, create a feedback loop. Encourage everyone to share their experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Regularly monitor progress and get feedback from various sources. This way, you can adjust your course before issues escalate.

Risk 10: Underappreciated Milestones

Action: Celebrate Your Wins

Small victories are like pit stops on a long road trip – they keep you motivated. Neglecting these small achievements can lead to demotivation and disengagement. In short, if organisations want employees to adapt to the change, they need to establish a beneficial strategy, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” Acknowledging and celebrating small milestones will foster a positive atmosphere and keep everyone moving forward.

The Bottom Line

Organisational change is a journey, and managing risks is your trusty map.

In short, if we want employees to embrace and adapt to the change, we need to:

  • Nail the 3 I’s model of communication
    • Inform – relay information down from senior management to employees
    • Interact – Connect with employees on a personal level
    • Involve – Get information from employees and collaborate with them
  • Provide support during resistance (knowing that resistance to change is a natural response). This could take the form of, for example:
    • Resilience workshops
    • Managing change sessions
    • EAP promotion
    • Connect and learn events
    • In house drop in sessions (where an executive sits in a coffee shop or room in the office and employees can make 15 minutes chat appointments with them (this could be done virtually also)
  • Establish a beneficial strategy (the “what’s in it for me” aspect as change should not only benefit the organisation but also its employees)

Change, whether at work or in your personal life, requires adaptability. Adapting to new circumstances, roles, or environments is a critical skill that you can apply in various situations.

Reach out if you’d like more information on Managing Change and support the Wellbeing of your teams through the process.  You can contact me through michellemcfadyen.com.

Everything counts!

Written by Michelle McFadyen

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